3/2015, In English, Kansainvälisyys, Pääkirjoitus, Tutkimus ja innovaatiot

Strategy-based international partnership of higher education institutions – Partnership practices and results

The mission of the Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (the UAS Journal) is to report on the research and development activities at universities of applied sciences in order to facilitate cooperation, promote actions, advance transparency, and further regional vitality. The UAS Journal focuses on education, research and development activities in the fields of practice-oriented higher education in Finland. Since 2014 annually one number has been published totally in English.

This International Issue (no 3/2015) of the UAS Journal is focused on practices and results of strategy-based international partnerships of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are seen as key players to the internationalisation of the economy and society. To success in this demanding task, HEIs have increased cooperation with foreign HEIs by deepening existing partnerships and creating new partnerships. In addition to the volume on international cooperation, HEIs are increasingly paying attention to the quality and added value of cooperation. In order to get more benefit from international cooperation, HEIs have created strategy-based international partnerships. These partnerships are no longer just about signed memorandums of understanding and student/staff mobility but increasingly international curriculum development, double and joint degrees, as well as research, development and innovation (RDI) cooperation. International strategic partnerships can improve the quality of different dimensions of higher education, not only in education and RDI but also management, campus life etc. As an example of this kind of strategic international cooperation, FUAS Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences and KU Leuven Association (Belgium) has signed the strategic partnership agreement in 2012. The partnership is focused on benchmarking different cooperation models in higher education, compare national developments in higher education, and share insights on the development of innovation systems, the role of regional development in higher education, and the development of working-life oriented educational programmes and the integration of research in education. In practice the cooperation is implemented via strategy workshops, strategic staff and researcher exchanges, benchmarking seminars, and study visits.

In this issue, we were interested in empirical case examples, best practices and lessons learned from the following topics:

  • resent development of international strategy-based partnerships
  • collaboration process and activities for creating international strategic partnership
  • risks and challenges facing international strategic partnerships
  • success factors for international strategic partnerships
  • key characteristics of effective international strategic partnership management
  • concreate results and experiences from international strategic partnerships.

As a result we got manuscripts which describe five types of articles: 1) general discussions about internationalisation of HEIs, 2) strategic partnership agreement based development of HEIs, 3) international networks, 4) international project cooperation, and 5) international education cooperation.

The first two articles talk about different forms of international cooperation and motives behind international cooperation. The first article by Tero Ahvenharju et al. defines four types of international activities at universities of applied sciences. Authors talk for example the role of student/staff mobility and participation to the networks in creation of strategic partnerships. They ask important questions such as “do we know our partners?” The second article by Minna Liski emphasises motives behind strategic partnerships and talks about individual level aspect and the role of personal characteristics in successful international partnerships. The basic idea in this discussion is the fact that even if strategic partnership agreements are done between higher education organisations the real cooperation is done between individuals.

The strategic partnership agreement based development examples consist of three articles. The article by Jaana Ignatius et al. describes the strategic partnership between the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS Federation) and the KU Leuven association in the field of quality management. The next article by Jenni Leinonen opens Metropolia International Non-Teaching Staff Training Week as a method to support international networking, benchmarking and sharing best practices among international partner HEIs. The third article by Maija Hirvonen et al. reports about the cooperation between JAMK Univeristy of Applied Sciences, and Häme University of Applied Sciences and Tribhuvan University (Nepal) in the field of teacher education.

The international network focused articles document experiences from two different types of networks. The first article by Juha Kettunen is a description of establishment, activities and results of the CARPE network – the Consortium on Applied Research and Professional Education.The second article by Marina Weck and Lauri Tenhunen reports experiences from the knowledge-based innovation network METNET which aims to support regional innovation systems by consolidating the expertise and efforts of the reginal steel construction and technology industries in research and development and by sharing knowledge and technology services, new production-related solutions and operating models among the steel industry.

The international project examples consist of four project descriptions. The article by Janika Kyttä et al. describes experiences from Finnish-Chinese project which aims to improve strategic partnership activities between the partner universities and to promote future cooperation between Finnish and Chinese companies. The second article by Hanna Hopia et al. is an example of the international project cooperation focused on multicultural competencies. The third article by Minna Keinänen-Toivola et al. describes a research project cooperation between Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Polytechnic of Namibia. The last project example by Marja Silén-Lipponen and Annikki Jauniainen describes experiences from international project cooperation related to the recognition of prior learning with German and Estonian partners.

The last two articles describes educational cooperation practices. The first article by Seija Mahlamäki-Kultanen et al. focuses on a pilot teacher education designed for vocational and higher education teachers in Brazil. The second article by Ville Lehto et al. is a description of a joint business simulation course carried out in cooperation with Kalsruhe Hochschule, Laurea University of Applied Sciences and Saimia University of Applied Sciences.

As seen from the short article descriptions above, there is only a few articles that documents and analyses strategy-based partnerships, and none about success factors of international partnerships or characteristics of effective partnership management. This indicates that although there is a growing number of international strategic partnerships in Europe, the strategy-based international cooperation takes only the first steps in Finnish universities of applied sciences. The individual international projects described in this volume are good examples of current international activities in a way to strategic partnerships.


Theme editor Ulla Kotonen
Development Manager, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, ulla.kotonen@lamk.fi

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