Reimagining international collaboration

Rachel Sandison, Vice-Principal, External Relations, reflects on the importance of inclusive engagement and reimagining the possibilities of international collaboration.

2020 has been a year like no other. Never before has the sector faced such unprecedented challenges locally, nationally and internationally. And although the new academic year is an important landmark for us all, it remains in the long shadow cast by COVID-19 and the devastating effect it has had on our institutions and communities.

The tremendous uncertainty we are dealing with impacts all of our stakeholders, and, whether we like it or not, our institutions will be judged on our perceived response to the pandemic, which is also set against a backdrop of financial cuts, the threat of a return to protectionism, and, for the UK of course, the imminent impact of Brexit.

"Together, we can signal the importance of inclusive engagement, and reimagine the future possibilities of international collaboration. The world is counting on it."

As a result, it is mission critical that we remain global in outlook and collaborative in nature. Scientific and social solutions to the pandemic will require both cross-disciplinary and cross-border research cooperation that will harness collective expertise. Global partnerships can and will enhance our educational offerings and create an environment in which our staff and student communities can continue to thrive in both peri-COVID and post-COVID times.

The swift adoption of new communication platforms means that virtual mobility and online conferences and events have not only become the norm, but they have provided the means for greater audience reach and participation, and aided our ability to offer meaningful opportunities to those groups who may have previously been disadvantaged.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of connection and brought into sharp focus the benefits of individual and institutional alliances. Personally, I have gained huge value and comfort from my ability to engage with colleagues across every corner of the world, and learn from their approaches, whilst offering my own, and this shared experience across all of our constituencies has never felt more vital or pertinent.

It would also be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to highlight the University’s recent success in global league tables, with our rise to 92nd in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Whether we love or loathe rankings, this is important in part as it codifies the importance of ‘international outlook’ in all that we do, whether that be international research collaboration, the diversity that our international staff and students bring to our TeamUofG family, or the esteem in which our reputation is held by international peers.

Often considered the Oscars of Higher Education, we’re also delighted to have been shortlisted as Times Higher Education University of the Year, with the winner to be announced in November. This recognition of our partnership work relating to historical slavery and our programme of reparations will continue to offer opportunities for rich collaboration and wider engagement.

And whilst international collaboration is paramount, we must also not forget the importance that this has at a local level. Our governments and communities need us now more than ever before, and the higher education sector has the opportunity to reclaim the domain of experts from the populist politics that has dominated many of our countries’ agendas over the last few years.

Post-pandemic, global challenges will continue to require global solutions and perspectives. Together, we can signal the importance of inclusive engagement, and reimagine the future possibilities of international collaboration. The world is counting on it.

First published September 2020.