Higher Education goes global

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A year ago SCAN reported on the teaching partnerships in countries including India, Malaysia and Pakistan which the University is developing as a key facet of its 2009-15 Strategic Plan, and last term it was announced that a Lancaster University campus is to be established in China by 2014. This is all in response to one of the key trends in today’s Higher Education sector – globalisation.

Outgoing Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings told SCAN in November that “roughly, world student numbers will double in the next 20 years, and when that happens the bulk of young people who want to go to university will be in the eastern hemisphere and Lancaster will still be in the western hemisphere.”

This represents an opportunity for the University to ensure its own sustainability and also its position as a world-leader in a globalised education system. Diversification of income streams from various parts of the world also helps to protect Lancaster from the difficult UK economic climate. International fees income rose by 20% last year.

LUSU President George Gardiner also stresses that internationalisation represents an opportunity for Lancaster students. “From a personal perspective I’m a big advocate of internationalising the student experience. I think there’s a lot to be said for meeting students from all over the world, so the opportunity to go other countries is a really important thing,” he said.

However, Gardiner also stresses that degree schemes offered at GD Goenka World Institute in India, for example, “have to be justified in the quality that they provide.”

Not unrelated to internationalisation is recent discussion about Lancaster’s collaboration with other domestic institutes, specifically the University of Liverpool. Gardiner sees this discussions as shifting away from “a perception that it was a top-down collaboration where governance was severely affected” toward a more flexible situation where departments can “proactively go out and seek partners from various different institutions that are appropriate.”

“Small-scale collaborations and international collaborations that are innovative and exciting and do have real benefit whilst keeping the flexibility and autonomy of a university are really good,” he said.

Gardiner emphasised the need not to be complacent about Lancaster’s position in a changing Higher Education landscape, but was positive about the University’s current trajectory. “What’s encouraging about the new Vice Chancellor [Mark Smith]’s approach to strategy over the next ten or eleven months is that it’s an open approach where we’re constantly considering lots of different options and people are being allowed to have their input,” he concluded.

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