One of the world's leading universities has turned its back on traditional international relationships to pursue strategic alliances through organisations such as Universitas 21 and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities.
The University of British Columbia in Vancouver has torn up its membership agreement with the 600-member International Association of Universities and is establishing a global role through U21 and the APRU.
It is one of only five universities with overlapping membership of the two groups, which were set up within a month of each other in 1997. The others are Fudan and Peking universities in China, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Auckland. UBC is the only Canadian university in the APRU.
Martha Piper, UBC president, said: "We see these two organisations as strategic, action-oriented and focused on real academic issues. Other organisations are more bureaucratic."
As the IAU was holding its mammoth triennial conference in Sio Paulo, Dr Piper was in the UK pursuing a raft of initiatives with fellow U21 members Nottingham and Birmingham universities.
While the IAU may secure an international common framework for cross-border higher education and quality regimes in the medium to longer term, the UBC strategy is intended to yield concrete and sustainable results much more quickly.
UBC, which was founded in 1908, has been a big beneficiary of a raft of Canadian federal government schemes to promote research and reverse the Canadian brain drain.