Partnership Models for Universities

Partnerships have become a critical way for universities to compete in the global knowledge marketplace and ensure that their research and education programmes remain relevant.

New research by the Alliance on Partnership Models for Universities has examined best practice – and identified common pitfalls.

Read the report: International Education & Research Partnerships: Best Practices & Pitfalls

Universities partner with other higher-learning institutions for a variety of different reasons, including to further their own impact, expand their learning and establish a strategic geographic presence. But as global demand for new partnerships increases year on year, many are now asking what they can learn from existing models.

That was the question examined by the Alliance on Partnership Models for Universities, a global group of experts formed by The Varkey Foundation at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2017. During a year of research from 2017-18, the alliance catalogued an extensive inventory of university partnerships and analysed them by their structure, ecosystem and pedagogical means.

“Building meaningful and sustainable educational and research partnerships between universities is becoming critical to the success of institutions of higher education.” 
Soulaymane Kachani, Columbia University

The alliance found that the most successful university partnerships minimize bureaucracy, prioritise sustainability and safeguard against asymmetric relationships. The alliance’s key recommendations for universities include:

  • Minimize bureaucracy: A guiding principle that has underpinned the success of leading networks has been the evident lack of bureaucracy.
  • Have a clear business plan: Any project that is supported with grant funding needs to have a sustainable business plan to keep it going beyond the lifecycle of the grant.
  • Know the value proposition: There needs to be a thorough assessment, understanding, and setting of expectations of what the value proposition of a partnership is to all parties involved.
  • Understand asymmetry: In certain partnerships, unintended asymmetric outcomes may become inevitable, and may cause long-term damage to a partnership.
  • Localize content and context: Exchange programs have a lot to contribute to all partners involved.
  • Accept resources will be limited: One factor that challenges program development across multiple partners is the limited involvement of administrative staff and commitment to resources as partnerships are conceived.

The Alternative Models for Universities Alliance is:

Name *Organisation
Arturo Condo [co-chair] EARTH University
Soulaymane Kachani [co-chair] Columbia University
Murali Chandrashekaran University of British Columbia
Fikri Karaesmen Koç University
Remus Pricopie* University of Romania [former Minister of Education and Research of Romania]
James Ryan Harvard Graduate School of Education
Daniel Schwartz Porticus Foundation
Alexa Glo Belli [supporting member] EARTH University
Garret Rubin [supporting member] Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, University of Cambridge
Sandesh Tuladhar [supporting member] Colombia University
*The information and views set out in outputs by the Alliance are those of its Members and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions or positions of their organizations. 


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