King's, Arizona State and New South Wales Form Global Alliance

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, February 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

King's, Arizona State and New South Wales Form Global Alliance


The three institutions aim to tackle sustainability and educational attainment in new partnership. Ellie Bothwell reports

International collaboration in the higher education sector has increased rapidly over the past decade. Recent figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development show that between 2003 and 2012 the US saw a 33 per cent increase in the percentage of scientific documents produced through international collaboration, while more than 45 per cent of all scientific documents in the UK involved institutional affiliations with other countries.

The type and scale of these partnerships vary, but Ed Byrne, president and principal at King's College London, noted that many university partnerships are driven by "gifted academics collaborating with their colleagues at different institutions across the world".

However, he has predicted that a "new layer" of collaboration will increasingly develop, one in which "great institutions align their intellectual capacity and their capital resource into big international projects around education and research".

Tackling global challenges

King's College London, the US' Arizona State University (ASU) and Australia's University of New South Wales (UNSW) will on 9 February launch such a partnership, named the PLuS Alliance (taken from the locations of the three institutions: Phoenix, London and Sydney, with the "u" standing for university). The goal is for the universities to collaborate on research to help solve "global grand challenges", such as issues around sustainability and health, and to create new ideas and technologies to reduce the educational attainment gap across the world.

"The scale of some of the issues we're facing globally does not match up well with single universities in their traditional operating environments," ASU president Michael Crow told Times Higher Education.

"Our three combinations of skills, settings, history and dynamics create a unique mix. It's a way in which we can produce a new kind of university face from a fantastic group of faculty members."

The alliance will initially be self-funded and will seed-fund individual large-scale projects, with the view to eventually becoming self-sustaining, he added.

Professor Byrne said that the partnership is "not a merger"; the universities will continue with their individual aims and operations, but will use the alliance in areas where "working together can clearly value-add".

It will start with a team of 60 "outstanding" academics - 20 from each institution - each of whom will work on research that is related to sustainability, global health, social justice, or innovation and technology.

The scholars will be based at their current institutions but they will be given joint appointments across the three universities and "pretty much unlimited travel resources so they can move back and forth", said Professor Crow. …

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