European partnerships flourish in the face of uncertainty
Our Regional Director for Europe, Helen McMillan, discusses our partnerships in Europe and the future of our European activity.
2018 is drawing to a close, and the clock ticks towards New Year’s Eve. To many, however, it is the countdown to Brexit on 29 March which seems more pressing. Despite doubt as to exactly what course will be taken by the UK, there is reassuring news from our partners in Europe: our Regional Director for Europe, Helen McMillan explains how building on already robust relationships with existing partners and continuing to seek opportunities with new collaborators displays the value of what the University of Edinburgh can offer potential students, strengthening our position in uncertain times.
Q: The University of Edinburgh continues to build on existing partnerships within the European Union; is it reassuring to see continued and increased commitment from our European partners? Why do you feel they want to strengthen their ties with the University of Edinburgh in particular?
Yes, it is reassuring but not surprising.
Just as we see the huge benefits that engagement with our European partners has on our teaching, research output and opportunities for our students, the University’s contribution is similarly recognised by our European colleagues. More is achieved together and for this reason, we’ll continue to work together - in the last 10 years, 30% of the University’s research outputs were co-authored with EEA partners.
Brexit undoubtedly presents its challenges but messages to our European partners of continued engagement have been reciprocated and through collaborative efforts, there is a willingness on both sides to ensure existing partnership activity continues and grows.
Q: Our Vice Principal, Jonathan Seckl, has recently been involved with two high profile Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signings. What makes agreements like these with partners such as the University of Amsterdam and University College of Dublin particularly valuable at this point in time?
An MoA is a commitment to strong collaboration and is always significant regardless of where the institutional partner is based.
In the current context, an MoA with strong European partner institutions, who share similar ambitions and vision, illustrates the University’s commitment to Europe and continued plans for cooperation.
Recent activity sends a clear message that Edinburgh is better because of its engagement with our European colleagues and that the University will ensure that the connections it has fostered over a number of years will continue.
Q: Director of Edinburgh Global & Deputy Vice Principal International, Alan Mackay, has spoken of a commitment to remain a European university in the sense of staying closely linked with other universities across the EU. What action do you feel is essential for the University of Edinburgh if it is to retain its relevance as a destination for European students?
Our relevance to students pre and post-Brexit remains the same. Students will continue to be encouraged to study at Edinburgh because of our reputation for world-class research and teaching excellence.
The University is currently the top destination for incoming Erasmus students in the UK and aside from our institutional ranking, its appeal to both visiting and degree-seeking students is the city of Edinburgh and its location within an English-speaking country.
Undoubtedly, we’ll need to work harder to ensure Edinburgh, and the UK, is perceived as a welcoming and inclusive destination but international diversity across our campuses is a goal we will strive to maintain.
Q: It seems that things relating to Europe are changing on a nearly daily basis. Have the University’s relationships in Europe changed to reflect this? How are dialogues with European partners remaining influential on policy-making?
While the UK waits to see what happens next and the HE sector anxiously waits to determine the impact on staff, students and future participation in EU funding programmes, the rest of Europe has moved on.
The Commission is looking at new initiatives which will see different models of inter-institutional collaboration emerge as they state a vision for institutions with ‘common European values and a strengthened European identity’. This has sparked dialogue with European institutional partners as new opportunities start to develop and are currently under consideration.
The University recognises the value of staying engaged with existing and new partners from across Europe and as this becomes increasingly significant, we were delighted when at the end of 2017 our application to re-join the UNICA network (Network of Universities from across the Capitals of Europe) was approved.
This allows for increased networking with a broader base of European universities and it is through membership of key European networks such as UNICA, the Coimbra Group and LERU that the University is able to feed in and can continue to influence relevant European policy.
The University recognises the value of staying engaged with existing and new partners from across Europe and as this becomes increasingly significant, we were delighted when at the end of 2017 our application to re-join the UNICA network (Network of Universities from across the Capitals of Europe) was approved. This allows for increased networking with a broader base of European universities and it is through membership of key European networks such as UNICA, the Coimbra Group and LERU that the University is able to feed in and can continue to influence relevant European policy.
It looks reassuring on paper and the numbers back up Helen’s confidence. The University of Edinburgh and the University of Amsterdam are mutually committed to €90,000 of funding over the next three years, and our new agreement with University College Dublin will see the creation of a fund worth up to €100,000 in its first year. Whatever comes next spring, it looks like the work of our Europe regional team will mean our reputation as a valuable partner to European institutions and as a diverse, inclusive destination for study remains strong.