Manchester, Melbourne and Toronto launch ‘post-Covid’ alliance

Universities bill partnership as bringing ‘global programmes’ for students as well as joint research on worldwide challenges

November 15, 2021

The universities of Manchester, Melbourne and Toronto have announced a new alliance for the “post-Covid” higher education landscape, centred on research on global challenges but also including ways to use online teaching innovation to benefit students.

The universities, which together have 187,000 students and 45,000 staff, announced the partnership on 15 November.

They billed it as bringing students “global classroom programmes that provide interaction with world-leading teachers and researchers” plus “exchanges providing global experiences to boost career prospects and dual PhD programmes with opportunities to visit the third institutions”. Meanwhile, researchers “will also gain access to specialist facilities and the opportunities to work on joint research programmes on areas of interest such as environmental sustainability, cancer treatment and advanced materials”.

Alex Mihailidis, associate vice-president for international partnerships at Toronto, said: “When we all stepped back and looked at the world around us, coming out of Covid hopefully and the new geopolitical world that’s out there, let’s be honest, there’s some big problems out there that need solving…The best way to do it is with other international leaders.”

The partnership emerged from a wish to “formalise” and develop existing bilateral research partnerships between all three universities, said Stephen Flint, associate vice-president for internationalisation at Manchester. The Toronto-Manchester Joint Translational Centre for Digital Health is one existing product of those links. Researchers on cities at the three universities have also been working together, including through a recent joint conference titled “Reconfiguring Future Urban Infrastructures”.

“What’s really good about it is – sure there’s support from the top – but it was vibrant upward pressure [which formed the partnerships],” said Professor Flint. “That’s the secret to any of these alliances…It’s got to have life at grassroots level.”

He hoped the alliance would evolve “into a broader range of cooperations and collaborations”. Although “research is the core of it”, he also said one goal is to achieve “more imaginative student mobility. We would like graduates of our triumvirate to be regarded as top global citizens, comfortable in a global environment.”

Professor Flint cited Toronto’s Global Classroom initiative, billed as offering “an accessible way to internationalise teaching and learning experiences by combining cross-cultural collaborations with technology” as another area of interest.

And there are early talks on “how the three together might interact more meaningfully with the Global South…where we can add more value as a threesome than any single one of us could,” said Professor Flint.

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