International partnerships: a legal guide for universities

Greetings mid-July.  Susan and I have been travelling a lot via our respective jobs, so please excuse the slow pace of updates to GlobalHigherEd.

CoverMy return to Madison a few days ago corresponded with an embargoed (until today) press release from the UK Higher Education International Unit.  The press release relates to a new report (International Partnerships: A Legal Guide for UK Universities) that was published today.  The UK Higher Education International Unit is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland), Guild HE and Universities UK.  The press release notes:

International Partnerships: A Legal Guide for UK Universities, written by international law firm Eversheds, is designed as a practical ‘route map’ which gathers together in one place all the issues that need to be considered by a university serious about doing business abroad and getting it right from start to finish.

Key features of the guide include:

* Chapters on managing and documenting a partnership, including laying the groundwork, due diligence, troubleshooting and risk assessment with accompanying lists of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.
* Guidance on what to do if things go wrong.
* Country-specific case studies detailing legal and higher education jurisdiction, (Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Qatar, UAE and USA)

Professor Rick Trainor, President of Universities UK, said, ‘International activities should protect and enhance a university’s brand, reputation and mission. Getting an international academic relationship right at the outset is always preferable to fixing mistakes later. It is my belief that this guide will prove to be of considerable and lasting practical use to our colleagues in the HE sector who are charged with establishing and running the full range of collaborative ventures with our counterparts abroad.’

Glynne Stanfield, partner and head of international education at Eversheds, said: ‘Having been involved in providing legal support to the International Unit at Universities UK since its inception, we are delighted to have produced a guide for the sector on international activities. We have seen a major increase in the international activities of universities over the last few years; we expect that trend to accelerate and we hope the guide assists universities to do so. As an international law firm we fully recognise the increasing importance to the UK of international activities particularly in education, one of the UK’s key export markets.’

International partnerships have, to date, been a success story for UK universities, but gone are the days when the terms of collaboration could be agreed between Vice-Chancellors on no more than a handshake. UK universities are sophisticated international collaborators and are increasingly taking account of legal issues when entering overseas partnerships.  The guide conveys the complexities of the law in an accessible and readable format.

A fuller summary of the report is available in their newsletter (International Focus: 15/07/09), which includes the ‘lifecycle’ image below.

lifecycle

The UK Higher Education International Unit has been attempting, over the last several years, to support UK universities in the “internationalization” process through a range of activities, including:

  • Assembling timely and high quality data and information about international developments and movements in higher education, and adding value to them through research and analysis designed to develop foresight about international trends and their potential impact on UK HEIs;
  • Making the results of this work readily available to UK HEIs and providing a meeting point for the sharing of information about globalisation, and the discussion of issues that arise;
  • Helping to ensure that there is joined-up thinking and appropriate co-ordination between the range of UK organisations involved in international activity related to higher education, thereby increasing its impact and helping to advance the reputation of UK higher education in overseas countries.

This institution emerged in the context of the increasing dependency of UK universities on foreign student-derived revenue, the enhanced involvement of UK universities abroad (with respect to both teaching and research), and the desire of the UK higher education sector to ensure that UK universities are strategic in the context of the emergence of the European Higher Education Area.

It is interesting to note that this detailed 196 page report can only be read by officials representing UK universities, who can access it at this password-protected site.  Following a 12 month UK uni-only phase, the report becomes available for general consumption, and is free.

The issue of general access to informative reports like this one, or reports commissioned by similar organizations in other countries, is shaped by actual and perceived needs to service stakeholders who fund the commissioning agency, the competitive impulse, and historical policy legacies regarding distribution.  Yet we have detected a broad trend towards free, immediate, and open access to these types of reports, in part because of the administrative costs of printing, charging and distributing lengthy reports, but also recognition that the global higher ed landscape is evolving so fast that everyone can benefit from enhanced understandings of how to (re)shape the development process.  International partnerships are, after all, about partnership. This is a long-winded way of suggesting that organizations like the UK Higher Education International Unit, and the American Council on Education’s Center for International Initiatives, should seriously consider adopting an open access policy for relevant reports. Such an approach would enhance the nature of the collaborative development process, and better ensure institutions in other countries understand the logics and rationales — the modi operandi — associated with UK and US partners. There might be some forgone revenue or other costs, yet the broader benefits of sharing knowledge, in a timely and open fashion, as well as the symbolic messages sent out, are well worth considering.

Kris Olds

ps: I should add that the UK Higher Education International Unit kindly sent me a copy of the report, so this is not a whinge to get a copy, but an indirect note of appreciation regarding the quality of the report. :)

About these ads

2 thoughts on “International partnerships: a legal guide for universities

  1. Pingback: From rhetoric to reality: unpacking the numbers and practices of global higher ed « GlobalHigherEd

  2. “… adopting an open access policy for relevant reports. … would enhance the nature of the collaborative development process …”

    I look forward to the time (July 2010) when this report shall be made available to other institutions. As you mention, it should be used to enhace collaboration.

    Any sustainable collaboration should be based on a win-win situation where both partners strive for equity in benefits. Equity doesn’t mean equality and is partly based on the perception of each partner as to where the collaboration shall lead to. Sharing of the process allows each partner to realise the commitment and responsibility required to make the collaboration work. Unfortunately, too many MOUs are signed without going forward to the next stage of action planning.

    I wonder then at the collaboration lifecycle diagram which places “due diligence” after the MOU and not before. I can only speculate that an “MOU”, in the report context, is similar to a letter of intent and that the “collaborative agreement” is the terms of agreement between parties or MOU. Or maybe MOA?

    No wonder we have problems communicating collaboration if even our perception of the agreed terms differ!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s