Global Wales, the international education partnership comprising Universities Wales, Welsh Government, British Council Wales, and the Higher Education funding Council for Wales, came together for its first flagship conference yesterday, to celebrate the end of its current three-year phase and look ahead as the programme grows to 2026.
The Global Wales conference ‘Collaborative Approaches to delivering International strategies’ shared the successes of its ‘Team Wales’ approach to over 200 Welsh, UK and international delegates that joined the virtual gathering.
Speaking at the event, Global Wales Chair and Vice Chancellor of Bangor University, Professor Iwan Davies captured the core theme that “Collaborative advantage, not competitive advantage is how the sector in Wales has succeeded in developing its key networks to drive forward our global HE development”.
Jeremy Miles MS, Welsh Government Minister for Education and Welsh Language, stressed that mutual respect and reciprocity will remain core to the Welsh Government’s approach to strengthening our relationships worldwide, as demonstrated in the new International Learning Exchange Programme. He went on to explain that “what Global Wales shows is that although we’re a small country, we are dynamic, agile and we have world-class universities and a modern, ambitious approach to international collaboration and research. But we have the size as well to develop really close ties with what Global Wales describe as their ‘system to system’ approach – with collaboration at all levels including government”.
This was echoed by Professor Hoang Minh Son, Deputy Minister for Education and Training in Vietnam, one of Global Wales’ priority countries for mutual HE development. Minister Son, encouraged that “Collaboration has gone from strength to strength in spite of the pandemic”, looked ahead to further opportunities to expand on scholarships and researcher mobilities between Wales and Vietnam.
As well as Vietnam, the Global Wales Programme also works closely with partners in the USA, India and soon Europe. Professor Papi Reddy, Chairman of the Telengana State Council for Higher Education in India reflected on recent work with Global Wales partners, focusing in particular on a new three-year collaboration on curriculum development led by Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities, and adding that “education sought through international collaboration is a catalyst for leading change around the world”.
A highlight of the event was the focus on the International Learning Exchange Programme, that the Welsh Government has committed £65million to until 2026. This session heard from Professor Colin Riordan, Vice Chancellor, Cardiff University who was joined by Professor Eva Feichtner, VP Universität Bremen, Kostis Giannidis, President of the Erasmus Student Network, Clare Hermann, European Commission and Professor Maria Hinfelaar, VC Wrexham Glyndŵr University. Professor Riordan explained that this ambitious scheme is the best funded of its type proportionally in the UK, covering inward as well as outward mobilities across the higher education, further education, adult, youth and education in school settings to strengthen and grow opportunities and strategic partnerships.
The collaborative theme was expressed through several in depth sessions illustrating HE developments in Wales. These included: scholarships and partnerships in practice; how the system-to-system approach has worked in Vietnam; how sustainable networks have developed in the USA – especially looking at student advisor networks, where Wales has grown its network to over 23,000, as well as a look at the ‘Team Wales’ approach to Study in Wales nation branding.
In January 2020, the Welsh Government released its first International Strategy, promoting Wales as outward looking and a globally competitive nation, with ambitions to raise Wales’ international profile, grow the Welsh economy through increasing exports and attracting inward investment and establish Wales as a globally responsible nation. The recent confirmation of Welsh Government funding for the Global Wales programme to 2026 means that this partnership’s next phase is ideally placed to support all three of these aims.
Looking ahead and speaking about delivering national strategies, Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Global Wales partner concluded that “it is about long-term, mutually beneficial partnership; system to system, institution to institution. That is what will make for sustained positive relationships from which good things will flow. That approach, being adopted by Global Wales, will work for our universities, but it will also work for our nation.”