New Manchester, Melbourne and Toronto alliance for post-COVID uni landscape

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell
X The Business Desk

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Student exchanges, joint research projects and mutual bids to work with some of the world’s biggest businesses and funders will be part of a new post-COVID alliance between the Universities of Manchester, Melbourne and Toronto.

Announced today (November 15), the alliance sees the universities – which have a combined 187,000 students and 45,000 staff and are all in the world top 50 – commit to collaborate more closely than ever, drawing on joint expertise and resources and taking advantage of new ways of studying, working and collaborating that have emerged during the pandemic.

For students this means global classroom programmes that provide interaction with world-leading teachers and researchers on three continents via lectures, seminars, and practical classes. There will be exchanges providing global experiences to boost career prospects and dual PhD programmes with opportunities to visit the third institutions.

Researchers will also gain access to specialist facilities and the opportunities to work on joint research programmes on areas of interest such as environmental sustainability, cancer treatment and advanced materials. Several of these are already in place.

This will be supported by access to global experience in funding, links to industry and researchers at the other member institutions. There will be support for mutual sabbaticals, exchanges, visits, and residencies between the alliance members.

Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: “Manchester is a global university and the pandemic has shown more than ever how collaborative working can solve our greatest challenges. This new alliance between three of the world’s leading universities will embed that spirit of collaboration and provide world class opportunities for our researchers and our students.”

Prof Duncan Maskell, University of Melbourne vice chancellor, said: “The new alliance between Melbourne, Manchester, and Toronto universities will create opportunities to address global challenges across all fields of education and research. The alliance will enable existing funding projects, joint research programmes and PhD programmes to grow in scale across all three institutions and their regions.”

Prof Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, said: “The University of Toronto is excited to build on its strong, long standing relationships with our peer institutions in Melbourne and Manchester. This new collaboration will amplify our individual strengths and enhance our collective contributions in teaching, research and innovation across a wide range of disciplines.”

One area of cooperation between the Universities of Melbourne, Toronto and Manchester is already in place through the staff and students researching the huge challenges and opportunities facing our cities.

Urbanists have been holding joint online workshops to address questions on the ways cities build, and build back, infrastructure.

Faced with a combination of economic, environmental, health and social challenges, cities are learning from each other, experimenting and innovating with strategies in an increasingly uncertain world. Entitled Reconfiguring Future Urban Infrastructures attended by academics and postgraduate students from all three universities – as well as tens of others – these webinars have led to a healthy exchange of ideas.

There are plans for joint research grants and research paper, building upon a recent intervention in Urban Geography by Theresa Enright (Toronto) and Kevin Ward (Manchester). Each webinar consists of presentations by an academic from each of the three universities.

Prof Michele Acuto, director of the Melbourne Centre for Cities, said: “It’s great to be working together with the Universities of Toronto and Manchester to have these important discussions about building and bettering our cities.

“Between our three institutions, there is so much potential for collaboration and development. We are building a new generation of internationally minded urbanists in research and practice and advocating for the value of a ‘global’ urban imagination at a time of international disruptions.”

Prof Kevin Ward, director of the Manchester Urban Institute, said: “Our three cities are already having to contend with climate change and its effects. All of us have expertise to help cities adapt, emerge from the pandemic and become better places to live.

“Most importantly our universities all place a strong emphasis on working with our communities whether that be the public or local and regional policy makers.”

Following the success of the webinar series Prof Ward is hoping the new strategic alliance will provide even more opportunities for collaboration.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can develop new ways of working together like joint studentships or accessing funding to do even more to tackle these issues,” he said.

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