Higher education and collaboration in a global context: a new UK/US (Atlantic) perspective

UK-US-reportThe global higher ed world is associated with a variety of novel initiatives that mix and mingle players operating at a range of scales, while forging and deepening new networks. The rationale and timing for each of these initiatives varies, of course, as does each initiative’s potential for “success” when it comes to the implementation phase.

Today marks the release Higher Education and Collaboration in a Global Context, a noteworthy report published by the UK/US Study Group, which is made up of:

United Kingdom

  • Rick Trainor, Principal, King’s College London and President, Universities UK. Trainor serves as co-chair of the UK/US Study Group
  • Shaun Curtis, Head of the UK Higher Education International Unit
  • Dame Janet Finch, Vice-Chancellor, Keele University
  • Christopher Snowden, Vice-Chancellor, University of Surrey
  • Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol
  • Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, Warwick University

United States:

This report was commissioned by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the Spring of 2008, and was completed in January 2009 (though not released until today).

The authors of Higher Education and Collaboration in a Global Context make the case for a much deeper transatlantic relationship; one institutionalized in a strategic sense via the creation of:

  • The Atlantic Trust (a foundation)
  • The Atlantic Scholars (enhanced student mobility)
  • The Atlantic Researchers (enhanced collaborative research initiatives with at least one UK and one US partner)
  • The Atlantic Partners (a public service scheme)

In a future entry I will examine the content of the report, and put this content (and the report’s development process) into greater context.  For now, though, see below for a copy of the summary of the report, link here for the press release, and link here (Higher Education and Collaboration in a Global Context) for a copy of the full report.


This report makes the case for a new model for UK/US collaboration, one that will develop multilateral partnerships and bring the longstanding UK/US partnership in higher education to bear in third locations. It argues that if the UK and the USA are to continue to assert their primacy in the realm of higher education (HE) within an increasingly competitive global context, they will best do so collaboratively. The emergent global HE picture represents a challenging but ultimately promising framework for newly-envisioned UK/US collaboration.

Now, more than ever, collaboration across borders among our leading universities is absolutely necessary. The strength of the UK/US partnership, the longstanding preeminence of the two countries in the HE sector, and, more recently, the unfolding of the global economy, validate the case for deepened – and internationalised – collaboration. Furthering the UK/US collaborative HE relationship can no longer have as its sole goals mobility and partnership between the two, nor the advancement only of UK and US interests. The biggest challenge ahead is to focus on ways of extending the UK/US model to third locations. This will enrich immensely the universities of both countries, foster the growth of an open, competitive and accessible HE sector in other nations, and constitutes a vitally important form of soft diplomacy and power. Most critically, it will foster – if framed by ambitious initiatives – the development of a ‘global civil society’ which will bind universities and countries together through common values and principles, and counter the centripetal forces of the globalised era.

The report provides an account of the origins and purpose of the group that produced it; assesses the history of UK/US higher education partnership, its strengths and weaknesses, and current context; and gives a forecast of developments with which the partnership must engage. Most critically, it makes a case for the absolute centrality of higher education in this emerging world, and provides ideas that capitalise on that centrality and begin to orient the longstanding UK/US partnership toward the globalised world before us for the creation of a global civil society.

Kris Olds