Old foes lead way as ideal partners

December 21, 2000

Scotland's new enterprise and lifelong learning minister, Wendy Alexander, has called for more collaboration in Scottish higher education. Dundee and St Andrews universities can claim to be leading the way with the launch of their ambitious initiative, Promoting Partnership.

The initiative encourages staff to consider the option of working with colleagues in the partner university, whether in teaching, research or commercialisation. It is backed by £315,000 from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which believes the partnership could prove a useful blueprint for other institutions.

Both universities are carrying out an inventory of their work, with five collaborative working groups producing a "first wave" of proposals. These include an honours degree combining theory and practice through art history at St Andrews and art and design at Dundee; innovative multidisciplinary research between biology, biochemistry and chemistry; and aligning technology transfer procedures to streamline commercialisation from joint ventures.

Both institutions stress that nothing is being imposed, and it is up to staff to decide where collaboration is useful.

Dundee used to be a college of St Andrews before breaking away in 1967 after a stormy relationship.

Ann Kettle, dean of St Andrews's arts faculty and a key member of the collaboration team, described the split as an "acrimonious divorce" and the partnership as "a very modern partnership of equals who are both contributing to the relationship". In appropriately modern style, the relationship is non-exclusive and does not impede links with other institutions.

The two universities insist that they have no plans to re-merge. They have many complementary strengths - natural sciences at Dundee and pure science at St Andrews, for example.

Dundee's secretary, Bob Seaton, said collaboration would greatly strengthen their capacity to bid for research funds, particularly in cross-disciplinary areas.

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