In January 2013, Maastricht University became the 19th higher education institute to join the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), an invitation-only partnership of research-intensive universities in Europe, North America, China and Australasia.
Talkin’Business sat with Professor Tom van Veen, Dean Internationalization of Education, and Krista Knopper, Strategic Advisor India and China and new WUN coordinator to discuss the opportunities offered by the international partnership.
“WUN’s Chief Executive, Professor John Hearn, approached me after a keynote speech I gave in the UK last year on the value of international education on the European continent and the development of higher education partnerships,” explains Tom van Veen.
Both WUN and Maastricht University quickly saw the possibilities offered by their mutual collaboration in research and graduate education projects.
“WUN is a highly recognized network of universities,” says Krista Knopper. “It was founded in 2000 as primarily a United Kingdom/United States university network but it is keen on adding institutions from other parts of the world, including continental Europe. Our international strategy and current work in India and China were seen as an asset.”
From Maastricht University’s perspective, the partnership with WUN brings promising opportunities to build new alliances but also to broaden existing ones.
“We carefully looked at WUN’s membership list and saw that we already collaborate with some of their partners on an individual basis,” says Van Veen. “This is the case for the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the State University of Campinas, with which our faculties and some of our research institutes such as UNU-MERIT have already established student exchange or research cooperation programmes.”
“Looking at the other members of the network,” adds Van Veen, “we identified a number of universities who have been on our partnership wish list for quite some time, because of their strong reputation in the fields of research in social and life sciences.”
“Take the University of Cape Town, the University of Auckland, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison or one of the top universities in China, Nanjing University, where several of our faculties would be happy to implement student exchange and research projects.”
WUN’s strong focus on research and well-structured network were additional appealing factors for Maastricht University.
“WUN focuses its research programmes around four main global challenges and works on some 85 different themes with small groups of researchers from the partner universities,” explains Knopper. “There is a good match between these themes and the type of research that we carry out at Maastricht University: think of global health, the international classroom, sustainability, Asian culture, innovation in learning, among others.”
“A valuable role for SBE”
Van Veen foresees a valuable role for the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics in the partnership with WUN: “As far as we can see, the research programmes supported by the network do not explicitly take business and economics perspectives into consideration in their approach. SBE can reinforce the value of the network’s research through its expertise in topics such as Supply Chain Management or globalization and trade. Or leadership. These are certainly interesting avenues to explore.”
In the area of scientific research, Maastricht’s Health Campus will be another asset for WUN. “During his visit to Maastricht, WUN’s chief executive John Hearn visited our Brain Imaging Centre and was impressed with our Tesla scanner and neuroscience programme,” says Van Veen.
Maastricht University will be prominently represented in WUN’s Partnership Board and Academic Advisory Group through UM President, Professor Dr Martin Paul and Rector Magnificus, Professor Dr Luc Soete respectively. Van Veen will continue to play an advisory role in UM’s participation in the network.
Knopper sees her main task for the coming months in connecting with the faculties to make an inventory of the research themes and projects within WUN and Maastricht University where an immediate match can be found with the WUN Global Challenges. She will also look to identify existing exchange and research relationships between Maastricht University and individual universities of the network.
The announcement of the WUN membership was very positively received by the various faculties of Maastricht University, as well as its many institutional partners both in the Netherlands and abroad, comments Van Veen. “The news was also enthusiastically relayed by the local press, because it represents a meaningful development for our university and the region.”
By Sueli Brodin