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Britain's University of Warwick and Australia's Monash University have formed a partnership aimed at pushing them "well into the first 50 institutions" in the world as they anticipate similar moves by rivals in a globalized higher ­education ­market.

Warwick and Monash say that the link responds to employer and student demands for internationalized education and will increase their appeal to overseas students – particularly those from Asia, where Monash has established branch campuses. The partnership also strives to increase the universities’ research presence in "world-relevant and strategically important" areas, and to capitalize on international research funding opportunities.

It will start with £2 million ($3.2 million) in seed funding for 10 joint senior academic posts, plus new dual master’s and joint doctoral degrees in areas of "strategic importance." Nigel Thrift, Warwick’s vice chancellor, said: "This is probably the first time that two large and significant universities have tried to cooperate on this kind of scale."

Ed Byrne, Monash’s vice chancellor, said that in future the partnership could include ventures in online learning; "research opportunities with international bodies that are interested in global activities that go into every continent," such as financial agencies; and "degrees that are particularly focused on high achievers throughout Asia." Byrne, a former vice provost of University College London and director of private healthcare firm Bupa, said that globalization and technological change meant that higher education "is really going to become a global marketplace”, a process that will “alter the traditional university model."

He echoed an airline analogy previously used by Thrift to highlight the potential development of global university partnerships. Byrne said that in the Star Alliance that includes Lufthansa and United Airlines, independent brands had realized that "to cover the globe" they "needed to come together to form a different type of partnership." The two vice chancellors believe that global "university systems" will be needed to respond to future demands in education and research.

Strength in Numbers

Thrift predicted that there would be a group of universities ranked in the world top 30 that could "choose the situation they wish to be in." These universities would be "invited into particular countries, often with someone – a government or some other institution – writing the check."

"What we think will happen for universities that aren’t in that position is that they will gradually group together," he added.

Byrne said the partnership was a "major strategic repositioning" aimed at pushing Warwick and Monash “well into the first 50 institutions” in world university ranking terms. Monash, based in Melbourne, already has full branch campuses in Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur, plus a postgraduate research center in Mumbai established in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology at Bombay. It also plans to set up a graduate campus in China. Warwick has a center in Venice.

Both Britain and Australia are "very attractive" to international students, Byrne said, and are "among the top three for the burgeoning and ever-increasing international student market, which will continue to grow as the wealth of Asia grows." He highlighted the growing expectation among students that they should be "educated in a global context and acquire a skill set marketable across the globe."

Byrne added: “In Asia, the big decision students make is effectively whether to come to the UK or Australia. This offers the potential to have the best of both worlds." The "non-Australian and non-UK campuses that both universities have will be part of the student opportunities on offer," he said.

The Warwick-Monash partnership will be overseen by a jointly appointed senior figure who will report directly to the two vice chancellors and sit alongside the senior management teams of both universities.

Byrne said the link could lead to the universities jointly setting up businesses "spinning off from research or new educational opportunities."  He added: "We would regard it as very disappointing if, in a few years’ time, there weren’t very, very significant sums of money coming in through this initiative."

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