How Swansea University remains internationally ambitious in challenging times
“Internationalisation via strategic partnerships will allow us to extend our global reach whatever the outcome of Brexit”
Since our foundation in 1920, Swansea University has embraced opportunities to think globally, growing and maintaining partnerships that enhance and support our research, teaching and student recruitment ambitions. But to say that universities are operating in uncertain times is no less true for being a cliché.
The numbers of international students entering the UK have been flatlining since 2012 when the government removed the two- year post-study work visa, followed by further changes in 2015, as the government began cutting immigration targets and tightening up rules in a number of areas, including academic progression and savings. At the same time, competition has got tougher as the market has grown in the USA, Canada and Australia, and HEIs in parts of Europe like the Netherlands and Germany have begun teaching courses through the medium of English.
Brexit, with all its uncertainty and lack of clarity, has, of course, made the situation much worse. The government has said it wants to keep the door open to European students after we have left the EU, but will the UK be seen as a small, unwelcoming destination?
In spite of this difficult scenario, at Swansea University we remain upbeat and ambitious and are going all out to grow our international presence – with partnerships at the heart of all we do. The creation of sustainable and mutually beneficial collaborations with key partners is at the heart of our international strategy. We focus on a small number of high-quality partnerships that will lead to opportunities for staff and student mobility, joint teaching, and research collaboration.
Our Texas Strategic Partnership is a long-standing and successful one encompassing eight leading universities and medical institutions. It has led to 188 student exchanges in five years, 167 joint publications, over 12,000 citations and nearly $300,000 scholarship and mobility funding secured.
Now we have signed an MOU with another US institution, Montana State University in Bozeman. This has the potential to offer a number of collaboration possibilities including exciting exchange possibilities for our students across all subject areas; we are currently scoping a range of mobility opportunities from short summer programmes to a full year abroad.
“In spite of this difficult scenario, at Swansea University we remain upbeat and ambitious and are going all out to grow our international presence”
One of our most exciting partnerships – and one that is shaping up to make a real difference to recruitment as we look to markets beyond Europe post-Brexit – is The College, a new £45m development in a purpose-built home on our Bay Campus which has just welcomed its first students.
This is a joint venture (unique in HE) between the university and Australian international education provider Navitas, which has partnered Swansea in global recruitment for the past decade.
The College offers academic Pathways at the University which leads to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, providing intensive English courses and smaller class sizes to help students reach the standard required ahead of enrolling for a degree. This approach transforms international students into Swansea graduates, and targeting students for a foundation year ahead of a full degree can open up international study to those who might previously have been put off.
Yes, these are challenging times, but we are confident that continued internationalisation via strategic partnerships will allow us to extend our global reach whatever the outcome of Brexit.
About the author: Andrew Rhodes is Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at Swansea University. He is an alumnus of the University, where he received a BA in History and an MPhil, and a former senior civil servant. Here he looks at the challenges of Brexit and how Swansea is continuing to grow its international partnerships and recruit overseas students.