Comment & Analysis
Dec 7, 2016

For Trinity, Global Partnerships May Raise Its International Profile and Create Valuable Connections

Patrick Lavelle examines the pros and cons of the increasing number of global partnerships Trinity is making with other universities.

Patrick LavelleHigher Education Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

Trinity’s recent agreement with the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH) marks the development of yet another international partnership for the College. Such partnerships have grown in recent years since Trinity’s first Global Relations Strategy was formed in 2012. Under the agreement with UEH, up to 10 high-performing Vietnamese students, who spend the first two years at their undergraduate degree at UEH, will be able to come to Trinity for the remaining two years, graduating with a Trinity Bachelor of Business Studies degree.

Speaking to The University Times, Juliette Hussey, Trinity’s Vice President for Global Relations, outlines how such partnerships raise Trinity’s profile in these regions, and “lead to student recruitment”, in line with the College’s Global Relations Strategy. Indeed, under the current Strategic Plan, College aims for approximately 18 per cent of the student body to come from outside the EU by 2019. Hussey outlines that “we need to have students from all over the world, we need to have students sitting beside students from other countries, interacting with students from other countries and cultures”.

We’re now in a global environment, and therefore we want to play our role in ensuring somebody leaves Trinity with a global network


Prof Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, echoes these remarks to The University Times, pointing also to the benefits of a more internationally diverse classroom in terms of students “building up a network”. Burke added: “We’re now in a global environment, and therefore we want to play our role in ensuring somebody leaves Trinity with a global network, and having a very internationally diverse classroom is important in achieving that end.”

The partnership with UEH follows similar agreements Trinity has with institutions globally such as those with Thapar University in India and Singapore Institute of Technology. The partnership with Thapar, agreed in 2015, has seen Thapar align its Engineering curriculum with Trinity’s, with eligible students who have completed two years of the undergraduate engineering programme at Thapar, eligible to progress into third year in Trinity, and ultimately graduate with a Trinity degree.

Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) is Trinity’s oldest such partnership. Since 2012, students from SIT who have completed qualifications in physiotherapy and occupational therapy there have been able to complete one-year programmes and graduate with a Trinity Bachelor of Science in the respective area. These programmes are delivered in Singapore by Trinity academic staff, along with a period of study completed in Trinity. In 2014, programmes in Diagnostic Radiology and Radiation were also added. A new agreement signed in January, will see Trinity and SIT deliver a joint degree in Physiotherapy, launching next year, with Trinity contributing 25 per cent of the teaching.

In terms of developing such partnerships, Hussey outlines their appeal: “Particularly in South-East Asia, an overseas education is very important and highly sought after. In places where there is a partnership agreement, it means the student only needs to come overseas for two years instead of four years, and that reduces the cost to the family, and it also means the student is two years older by the time they come to Ireland.”

However, these are only one aspect of Trinity’s partnerships with universities internationally. Arguably, the more significant aspect of these partnerships is with regards to research collaboration. Hussey outlines that these agreements “deepen the relationships from academic to academic, and from that you can see greater connectivity, [and] research collaborations”. Speaking to The University Times, Jane Ohlmeyer, the College’s first Vice President for Global Relations, and the first individual to hold the role when it was created in 2011, emphasised the role of these agreements in “building the best research collaborations with the best universities across the world”. Ohlmeyer elaborates: “The truth is that research and education knows no geographic boundaries. We all want to work and collaborate with the best, attract the best students and the best faculty.” She emphasises that “it’s about people, it’s about really exciting people, doing joint and collaborative research”. Indeed Ohlmeyer, a 17th century historian on Ireland and empire, is currently researching how India fits into her specialism, a research interest she “developed on the back” of working in India as Vice President for Global Relations.

Research and education knows no geographic boundaries. We all want to work and collaborate with the best, attract the best students and the best faculty

Discussing the origins of the growth of international partnerships, Ohlmeyer points to the first Global Relations Strategy in 2012: “The first thing we did was an audit of relationships we already had, and we found out that many of our academics were already hugely connected globally, so we decided the starting place would be to amplify the relationships we already have, particularly when it comes to Asia, because the research collaborations with Europe were already very well established, as were the ones with North America.”

“If we are going to be a global player, we need to make sure that we have a presence in Asia”, Ohlmeyer continues. “The whole purpose was to really ensure that Trinity is a player on the world stage, and we wanted to amplify our profile on the world stage, and we wanted to ensure that we had an international body of students here in Dublin, and we had international programmes that really equipped our graduates to be serious players in a very competitive global world.”

For Ohlmeyer, the benefit on the ground in Trinity is evident: “Both personally and institutionally, we were able to open up a whole set of doors to people, obviously all we can do is open the door. Colleagues really embraced the whole global relations strategy with enthusiasm. Irish students also see the value of operating in an internationalised university. They appreciate the fact that the fee income international students bring is actually making their lot – this is income that makes the university better for everyone. But for me internationalisation is about building long-term relationships, it’s not about making money. But the money has been an added benefit if you want.” Ohlmeyer adds: “What’s good for Trinity is good for Ireland. When Trinity takes a lead in this space, we all win. Not everyone can get into Trinity, but we might put Ireland on their radar.”

An additional aspect of the partnership agreements emphasised by both Hussey and Ohlmeyer is that they have expanded the range of universities with whom Trinity has exchange agreements internationally. Hussey points to growing partnerships in North America in this regard, with Trinity a member of the Consortium of Advanced Studies Abroad (Casa). She states that Trinity students have “an opportunity to study in study centres of leading Ivy League universities and to study alongside their students in centres globally”. She points out that in January two Trinity students will study at a Brown University study centre in Havana, Cuba, giving them the “opportunity to study in Havana, but also to study alongside students from other American Ivy League universities”.

In terms of developing new international partnerships, Burke considers himself to have “quite a discriminating view of them”, stating: “I don’t buy into this view that international partnerships per se are always good a thing.” Burke elaborates: “First and foremost, if you’re to begin looking at partnerships, you need to ensure the universities are of the quality and expertise in our area, and also shares our values.” On the value front, Burke emphasises the importance of “the liberal learning environment, in which the freedom of speech and freedom of thought are encouraged, and protected”, as well as the school’s “view about equality, in terms of equal respect for people, whether it is gender, race, political point of view, religious point of view, etc.” He points out that these positions would immediately cause “problems with universities from certain jurisdictions who don’t share those values”.

Thereafter, for Burke, the question the school asks is if a potential partnership would “add any more to the education process than a student could earn by just staying in Trinity for the entire duration of their studies”. Finally, reputation is also of great importance. Burke states: “There may be some universities that deliver very good courses, but we feel that for someone graduating from Trinity, that it dilutes the strength of the degree in terms of from a branding position in the job market.”

Burke emphasises, however, that the Business School is in a phase of significant growth, arguing that the school “is destined to have the school accredited by the top international accreditation agency for business schools”. Once that is achieved, Burke believes “the profile and reputation of international business schools that would be keen to form partnerships with Trinity, will increase in number”. Thus Burke states: “So in a sense we’re holding back from doing too many partnerships at this point, we effectively want to wait a bit, because we know we can do partnerships with even more prestigious institutions in the very near future.”

If you’re to begin looking at partnerships, you need to ensure the universities are of the quality and expertise in our area, and also shares our values

Whilst the agreements with UEH, Thapar and SIT see students complete their studies in Trinity and gain a Trinity degree, Trinity has yet to launch dual-degree programmes for its students applying to Trinity. Dual programmes have grown more popular in recent years, particularly at Masters level. For example, London School of Economics (LSE) runs dual-masters with Columbia University in New York and Sciences Po Paris, among many others, in which students spend one year in LSE and the other year in the partner university, graduating with a Masters degree from both universities.

When asked if Trinity was looking at developing dual-degree programmes of its own, Hussey points out that the most recent university Council had approved a paper brought by Global Relations to proceed with discussions with Columbia University in the US, with regards to the potential for a dual degree at undergraduate level between the two universities. Such a programme would involve students spending two years in each institution, and subsequently graduating with a degree from both universities. A similar programme has existed for a number of years between Columbia and Sciences Po Paris.

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