Freedom of movement is the main road to knowledge

Even in the digital age, knowledge happens because people with common interests can easily work alongside each other, wherever they come from. This open society is under attack amidst calls to leave the EU.

It has become a commonplace that knowledge and scholarship are borderless. History shows the opposite. From earliest times, societies have successfully controlled knowledge and scholars through sects, guilds, borders and mind control. Several forces are at work in the UK that could damage knowledge creation by re-introducing borders.

The headline grabber is the call by politicians of all stripes to restrict immigration and leave the EU. A hint of problems to come can be seen in the effects of the decision to scrap post-study work visas in the UK. This is diverting international students away from this country for the first time since such statistics have been gathered.

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Universities – creating global citizens

With over 190 independent countries, more than 6,000 spoken languages and 6.3 billion people in the world, it has never been clearer that there is so much we don’t know and so many people and cultures to learn from.

Internationalisation within higher education is a particular challenge for small, arts-focussed universities such as Bath Spa University. We have no prospect of entering the international rankings, no established partnerships and a boutique offer. Yet, internationalisation is critical for a twenty-first century institution.

I joined Bath Spa University in early 2012 as Vice-Chancellor with a fairly steep hill to climb, considering that 85% of our students came from the local region. In 2011, the University had just 1.4% international students, less than any other university in the UK.

International students are not only a source of profit – they are essential to broadening the outlook of domestic students.  We aim to avoid silos of international students and have developed a programme of global citizenship to focus on developing a student body which benefits from internationalisation. The strategies we have developed to remedy the situation include an international campaign which raised international intake to over 15%, and The Global Academy of Liberal Arts (GALA) – an international network of liberal arts colleges.

Activities through the GALA network include joint research, student and staff exchange visits, and study abroad programmes. By collaborating with established liberal arts providers across the arts and creative subjects, GALA’s partners can create extraordinary opportunities both for students and staff, in research, joint teaching and collaboration.

Although we still have a long way to go, we can now proudly say that we are increasing numbers of students on Erasmus and exchange programmes . There is still a general feeling that many UK students are apprehensive about studying abroad.  Universities need to be alive to the needs of students once they graduate. We have a responsibility to our students to provide the broadest scope of education and equip them with as many tools as possible, and access to a global education is one of the most important.

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An international student abroad

As part of this month’s #WeAreInternational campaign – giving international students and graduates  a platform to share their story about why they chose to study in the UK – Duane Stapleton from the St Vincent and the Grenadines, tells us what attracted him to the UK and how he has found the experience.

I chose to migrate to the UK to join the military and to further my education because after considering the pros and cons, the UK seemed to offer better opportunities for personal development.  I undertook my initial BSc in Biomedical Science at De Montfort University in Leicester. This was my subject area of choice due to previous experience in this discipline in St Vincent and the Grenadines and because of my passion for diagnostic medicine.

I have always wanted to play a role in helping others with ill health without actually being on the front-line. After finishing my BSc, I decided to broaden my knowledge and prospects by doing an MSc Environmental Health with the University of Derby Online Learning. Though I am passionate about diagnostic medicine, there is no doubt that “prevention of illness is better than cure”; a saying which I have constantly heard as a child growing up.

I chose to do my MSc online via distance learning because of the high demands with my job as a multidisciplinary Biomedical Scientist. For example, during the 2nd year of my online MSc in 2013-2014, I was deployed to Afghanistan with a team of 7 individuals to provide laboratory support both for troops injured on the battlefield and routine cases. As this was also during the period where the U.K. military was handing over the responsibility to defend their own country to the Afghanistan National Army (ANA), my role also included the training of the ANA to conduct basic laboratory diagnostic procedures and transfusion practice.

During this time I faced the challenge of having to complete 2 modules, including Environmental Policy and Law as well as The Health Impact of Workplace & Food as well as my job. This was the greatest challenge that I have faced so far in my career as I had to overcome various obstacles to meet my submission deadlines whilst performing my primary role of managing the laboratory personnel and maintaining its capability. The primary challenge was the lack of time due to the busy nature of my role and the internet speed and availability to conduct research. Nevertheless, through determination and dedication my submission deadlines were met without the need for any deferrals.

Recently, I have also been deployed to Sierra Leone as a singleton. I was the first Biomedical Scientist to enter the country and my initial role was to set up a functional laboratory whereby British and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) entitled personnel who had not been exposed to the Ebola virus (but supporting the fight against Ebola) can have diagnostic tests undertaken and be treated appropriately. This was all part of a team of healthcare professionals required to have a functioning hospital whereby emergency and routine procedures can be administered. My secondary role apart from managing a small laboratory included health education, health and safety and advisor on diagnostics, emergency response, infection control and prevention. A recent article talks more about my experience of studying whilst tackling Ebola.

I have a special place in my heart for microbiology, infection control, epidemiology and climate change caused by air pollution. Currently, I have been engaged in an epidemiological research project as well as the application of electro-chemistry in auto mobiles to reduce the emission of pollutants. My philosophy is that the air we breathe is the one common thing that all animals and plants on the planet share and take into our bodies. It is therefore a major area that requires protection in order to ensure the longevity and quality of life of all that live and breathe on planet earth.

Studying online has enabled me to get on with my daily working routine which has the advantage of managing my spare time appropriately and flexibly whilst not having to enter an actual classroom. This has worked to my advantage, considering my job role and availability to travel long distances for lectures; a task which I could not endure had online study not been an option! The quality of learning material and support from the university meets international standards excellently and is virtually the same as being in a lecture theatre.

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No longer fit for purpose

Whoever will be sitting at the higher education minister’s desk after the election is going to have plenty in their in tray. Amongst other things vying for attention will be a pile of reports titled ‘HE regulation’. This week that pile grew higher, with the publication of a policy report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This follows Universities UK’s report last month and earlier contributions from the Higher Education Commission and HEPI. We’ve also had reports from the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee highlighting particular concerns on controls around access to student support. That growing pile is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

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UK’s universities hold the key to a more sustainable economy

The UK’s research base is second to none. Indeed, the strength of the UK’s science and technological research underpins the government’s strategy for growth and innovation. Yet the UK spends just 1.8% of GDP on research and development and lags behind in bringing that research to market in the form of new products and services. However, money alone cannot help the UK’s technology sector to prosper – we believe the real answer lies in design-led thinking.

In December last year, the government’s Science and Innovation Strategy recognised design as one of the most powerful tools we have to support teams utilise their research base. In order for the UK to compete in a highly competitive global economy, it must continue to invest in the right innovation support mechanisms – including design.

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Why UK students want to learn in a global classroom

In the month when Universities UK is celebrating the cultural diversity of our universities with the #WeAreInternational campaign, research published today by Hepi provides  a new angle to the debate on international students by looking at the soft power and educational benefits for UK students from learning and living alongside students from across the globe.

UUK’s infographic about the economic benefits for local communities and the country as a whole are regularly re-tweeted, and our report with British Future on international students and the UK immigration debate have added to our understanding about what the general public think about international students. But this research by Hepi and Kaplan International, with polling provided by YouthSight, asked those in the process of applying to UK universities what they think about the prospect of studying alongside students from abroad and being taught by international staff.

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Engineering for greater university collaboration

On the face of it, the relationships between businesses and universities are straight forward. Companies need young, talented people to boost their workforce and it is the role of universities to provide their students with the qualifications required.

In reality, the relationships run much deeper than a transactional recruitment drive. Firstly, the universities play a valuable role in providing the technical knowledge and many of the behaviours to do the job. However, there has to be collaboration with businesses to ensure that the skills and behaviours being taught are the ones that are needed in the workplace, especially in one that continuously evolves. Secondly, universities offer a unique research capability that not only provides valuable content for companies such as Atkins and our clients, but also provides students the opportunity to understand and address some real challenges.

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Diana Alice Florescu : #WeAreInternational

As part of the #WeAreInternational campaign – giving international students and graduates a platform to share their story about why they chose to study in the UK – Diana Alice Florescu from Romania tells us about her life in the UK.

Name: Diana Alice Florescu
Nationality: Romanian
UK university: University of Westminster (WBS)
Degree subject: Marketing Communications Continue reading

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Jose Diaz de Aguilar: Why I chose to study in the UK #WeAreInternational

As part of this month’s #WeAreInternational campaign – giving international students and graduates  a platform to share their story about why they chose to study in the UK – Jose Diaz de Aguilar from the Canary Islands, Spain, tells us what attracted him to the UK and how he has found the experience.

What are you studying?

Up until June 2014, I was studying aerospace engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Currently I am the International Students’ Officer at the Sheffield Students’ Union, where I represent international students studying at the University of Sheffield.

Which country are you from?


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We are international

Today marks the launch of an exciting initiative aimed at international students and international graduates who studied in the UK. Education UK, NUS and Universities UK are joining forces on a national social media campaign to celebrate international students, giving them a platform to share their story of why they chose to study in the UK.

We know how important international students are to our university campuses, and we value the culture and wealth of knowledge they bring to the country to share with their UK counterparts. That’s why, through this campaign, we want to generate activity and conversation through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other channels using the #WeAreInternational hashtag, in order to get everyone discussing some of the incredible individual stories coming out of our universities. We want the faces of this campaign to be the international students themselves and we want them to be given a voice on this important issue. Continue reading

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