International Relations



An interview with Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation.

Internationalisation strategy

What is Newcastle University’s strategy for internationalisation?

Central to our internationalisation strategy is international profile and impact. This starts with knowing where we are academically excellent and how we apply our knowledge to global challenges.

By doing this, we will attract the world’s best academics, the best students, the best businesses and the best partners and therefore we can develop an international experience at our university, here in Newcastle, and also at our branch campuses in London, Malaysia and Singapore.

We form significant collaborations with high quality institutions, have successful student recruitment and strive to act as one university through effective communication of our internationalisation agenda.

We want the entire university to work together to deliver our internationalisation strategy. You could say it’s a very large team of thousands of academics, students, and staff across all departments; together with our alumni across the globe, working together to deliver it.

Professor Richard Davies, PVC Engagement and Internationalisation
Professor Richard Davies

Global partnerships

What benefits do partnerships with overseas universities bring to Newcastle University?

We want to be a world class civic university, one that is not just interested in high quality research, but how that makes a difference to everyone’s lives.

We have international branch campuses which provide a hub of activity in South East Asia that allows us to start talking to people in that part of the world.

We have key partnerships in North America, which we hope will start to give us exposure in the major US universities and around the world, in Monash in Australia, in Groningen in the Netherlands. We are looking at managed growth of our core partnership base into other countries and regions.

All these partnerships help us to further joint research, provide a way of developing our students and high quality staff and give us international profile in these key parts of the world.

To achieve the aims of our internationalisation strategy, we cannot work in isolation. To tackle the really big challenges that society faces, we need to strike the right balance in what we do with our partners. That’s getting the right balance between student recruitment, developing the partnership, research and capacity raising.

We learn so much as a university from our partnerships. For example, we want best practice from our partner universities to inform the work that we do in Newcastle. We want to learn from their excellent teaching and/or research. It’s very much a two-way process.

Are there any particular fields of academia you specialise in where you are having an impact across the globe with partners?

We have three societal challenge themes. Ageing, social renewal and sustainability. All of those have examples where we are working internationally with our partners. We want our research to have international impact and relevance. We want our staff to be getting out of bed in the morning and thinking ‘what international collaborations am I going to be working on today, this week or this month?’ Why? Because as an academic you want your research to be cited widely and to make a huge positive difference to society.

We have hundreds of academics doing projects with international partners throughout the university. We support new international initiatives through our Global Excellence Fund into which staff can bid.

We are a major player in Europe and have numerous projects funded though Horizon 2020, Europe’s largest Research and Innovation funding programme. These large-scale projects involve collaborations between several European institutions and across academic and non-academic sectors.

One such project is an Innovative Training Network called BioRapid (which attracts around €4 million) - a collaboration between 9 institutions based in 5 European countries that will train the next generation of researchers in the area of Rapid Bioprocess Development.

That’s just one project. We are involved in projects across North America with Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh; and globally - that’s what our internationalisation agenda is all about.

What countries are you looking to partner with in the future and why?

South East Asia, to continue to make the most of our overseas campuses there, we have one in Malaysia and one in Singapore.

We need to make sure they are hubs for research and teaching, which allow us to attract the best academics and best students so that people can get a Newcastle experience without actually having to come to Newcastle.

China, North America, South America, India, they are areas we are focusing on.

Competition among UK universities

It’s a competitive world out there. Isn’t every other major UK university trying to make its mark internationally as well in the same global locations as Newcastle University is targeting?

Yes. But we all seem to tackle it differently. For example we are still very committed to the development of international branch campuses, where as some other universities do not see this as a central plank of their strategy any longer. But this is only part of it, we also need to be part of or lead global research projects that tackle the key global challenges society faces.

We are asked a lot if we want to develop international branch campuses. There are various parts of the world where we could develop our teaching and research. Our key reasoning is that firstly a presence allows us to develop a deeper understanding of the region, its culture and therefore will open up new opportunities, secondly it will lead to greater awareness of our brand outside the UK and students, who would not choose to come to the UK, can get a Newcastle University degree.

There are new countries opening up where funding is available because that Government has decided to send students to the UK. Brazil was the big one four or five years ago where the number of Brazilian scholarships mushroomed massively. But there are other parts of South America where that could happen in the future. I can’t tell you where – as we want to be ahead of the game!

The challenge internationally is not the shortage of opportunity, but what to do and where to do it.