Managing UK & U.S. International Partnerships

Jenna Hartsell, Education Manager, British Council & Cheryl Francisconi, Head, IIE Europe

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In March 2019, the British Council, a Generation Study Abroad Country Partner, and IIE held a training session for UK university representatives on ‘Managing U.S. Partnerships.’ Cheryl Francisconi and Susan Sutton, Fellow at IIE’s Center for International Partnerships, facilitated a day-long training at Regent’s University London for 18 UK representatives. Topics included U.S. partnership structures and processes, student mobility and learning, initiating partnerships, and optimizing partnership success. This training was inspired by IIE’s Managing International Partnerships Training Course which ran before the 2019 IIE Summit and built upon the British Council’s Generation Study Abroad commitment to increase the number of U.S. students studying abroad. “The trends, challenges and opportunities that were discussed during the Managing International Partnerships Training Course echoed conversations that I had had with UK institutions, and so we thought it would be valuable to bring together U.S. and UK perspectives on this topic,” explained Jenna Hartsell.

Six key takeaways from the training include:

1. Interest in U.S. – UK partnerships is High: The UK institutions participating in the training were keen to partner with U.S. institutions. Across the board, the UK institutions expressed a deep desire supported by their campus to expand the number of U.S. partners and deepen relationships with their existing partners.

2. A Variety of Reasons for Partnerships: There is a diverse set of reasons why UK institutions are seeking U.S. partners. Some institutions were solely focused on partnerships for student mobility, while others were interested in research partnerships or overarching strategic partners.

3. Quality over Quantity: Overall, there is a trend of UK institutions moving away from having many partnerships (some of which may be inactive), towards cultivating fewer, more comprehensive partnerships in areas of mutual strategic interest.

4. Challenges to Partnerships: UK institutions brought up several roadblocks to initiating partnerships with U.S. institutions. A recurring challenge was not knowing who to approach in an institution to initiate partnership discussions. The size and diversity of the U.S. higher education sector can make it challenging for UK institutions to identify who would make a good partner. Some institutions also mentioned that they struggle to get certain faculties on board to support partnership work, such as STEM-focused faculties. During the training we discussed how most U.S. universities do have an international office that can discuss opportunities for collaboration with UK universities.  In addition, we talked about how faculty often have connections and can leverage their past relationships to take the first step in developing a partnership, including research collaborations, faculty exchanges, or faculty-led study abroad programs with students.  

5. Understanding the Landscape: When considering student exchange partnerships, it’s important to know the U.S. market.  The trend among U.S. students is to participate in shorter-term study abroad programs such as summer programs 2-3 week intersession programs, or other short exchanges, rather than semester or year-long programs.  While there are some students that look for longer programs, they are fewer.  As UK universities look to attract more U.S. students, developing more short-term opportunities is a benefit. 

6. Flexibility is Key: Those who had found success in partnerships with U.S. institutions found that being flexible and having the ability to customize programmes for their partners, especially in terms of student mobility, was invaluable to the success of those partnerships. Participating UK institutions included: Bournemouth University, Brunel University London, Goldsmiths, University of London, King’s College London, Oxford Brookes University, Regent’s University London, Sheffield Hallam University, SOAS University of London, The University of Manchester, University College London (UCL), University of Bradford, University of Derby, University of Essex, University of Greenwich, University of Hull, University of the Arts London.

We are excited for future plans to host a part two to the training. We are also planning to incorporate UK institutions into the informal listserv for partnership managers that resulted from IIE’s Managing International Partnerships Training Course to continue the dialogue.