Kent People: International Partnerships team

Can you tell us about International Partnerships’ role at Kent?

We’re here to enhance the University’s global profile through a range of activities, including managing student and staff exchange programmes, virtual exchange projects and supporting visiting faculties.

We strengthen partnerships by engaging with international education and funding organisations, identifying which ones lead to direct income generation and collaborating with high-calibre institutions.

As well as supporting partnership activity across the Divisions, we are responsible for:

  • identifying appropriate models for collaboration
  • negotiating agreements and assessing each partnership.
  • designing institutional strategies and policies for different agreement types
  • leading on legal factors taking account of business risk and academic requirements
  • auditing existing partnerships, ensuring they’re consistent with institutional standards.

Who’s who within your team?

Our experienced study abroad team, Janet Wilson-Sharp, Françoise McKee and Katie Rowberry, look after our student and staff exchange programmes, with around 1,000 incoming and outgoing students each year.

International Partnership Officers, Jan Lowe, Emma Marku and Katy Thompson, play a key role in partnership development, agreement negotiation and strategic planning. Primrose Paskins, our Senior International Partnerships Officer, oversees institutional approval and due diligence processes, while Head of International Partnerships, Hannah McNorton manages our partnership activity, taking the lead on developing institutional strategy.

From top left: Françoise McKee, Emma Marku, Janet Wilson-Sharp, middle left: Katie Rowberry, Hannah McNorton, bottom left: Katy Thompson, Primrose Paskins, Jan Lowe

Who does the University have partnerships with and how do you work with them?

We work with many prestigious European and international HE institutions on student and staff exchanges, dual awards, research collaboration and enterprise links.

For incoming and outgoing students, we work closely with our partnered colleagues, helping with their enrolment on our programmes, accommodation, study visas, insurance and other practical matters. The University of Ghent and Hong Kong Baptist University are two of our multilateral partners and, together, we develop Master’s programmes, doctoral training, jointly supervised PhDs (Ghent), and other collaborative projects.

Our membership in the 3i University Network: Interregional Internationalisation Initiative is an example of the far-reaching impact of international networks, bringing together higher education, local and regional businesses and governmental organisations to identify strategies and address shared challenges. The network is hosting a series of workshops in June, with us leading on Energy & Climate change.

Additionally, our membership of the SGroup Universities in Europe, has provided a number of mobility opportunities for both students and staff.

How have Brexit and Covid impacted your area of work, and what’s been your response?

Brexit has brought a host of challenges and we’ve had to find new pathways to work with our European partners; legally, academically, and economically. We have developed new models of agreements for our existing university partners and adapted the way we enter into networks and collaborations. It’s given us the opportunity to future-proof our processes and enhance our creativity, innovation and sustainability, while pushing us to new areas of research.  

The Covid pandemic has cast unforeseen challenges, most notably suspending our international student exchange programme for the academic year 2020-21. But our approach for 2021-22 is to honour students’ wishes to study or work overseas when it is safe and practicable. Our wider planning has also been affected as we look ahead to international partnership development in a post-Covid era.

Yet, there’s also been some positive impact. For example, we now have an effective digital method for collaboration, which means we’re able to communicate more frequently with our partners. Our co-curricular virtual exchange initiative GLO (Global Learning Online) has also strengthened, with hundreds of students embracing online opportunities over the past year.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on, as well as your longer-term goals?

Following Brexit, the UK is no longer a member of the Erasmus+ student exchange programme. However, any funding secured pre-Brexit can be used until the project end date, so we will continue to support staff and students under Erasmus until 31 May 2023. Beyond that, we’re currently working with universities across Europe to establish bilateral agreements, allowing us to continue our European exchange activities.

We’ve recently submitted the University’s first funding bid to the UK government’s new Turing Scheme, which will allow us to support students on placements throughout the world. Subject to a successful bid, we aim to create new international opportunities such as summer schools and internships.

Our longer-term goals are to design a flexible international mobility experience, fit for a changing student demographic and to work with high-calibre institutions who share our values. We’ll be prioritising international relationships that lead to multi-lateral partnerships, ensuring our approach remains agile in an ever-changing environment.

How can staff find out more and get involved with your work?

We encourage colleagues to talk to the international contacts in their Division. You can also talk to us directly at internationalpartnerships@kent.ac.uk

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