Groups representing British and Australian universities have vowed to “turbocharge” cooperation, stating Brexit and free trade negotiations will create opportunities for reciprocal academic benefits and freer movement between the two countries.
Universities UK and Universities Australia said they would work together to boost joint research, student and academic exchanges, and mutual recognition of each other’s academic and professional qualifications.
The resolution follows a “UK-Australia roundtable” in Canberra last week and a similar meeting in London of May 2017.
Universities Australia executive director, Belinda Robinson, stated that Brexit was the stimulation needed for cooperative talks to begin between British and Australian universities, which provide “the opportunity for us to relook at the relationship and giving us momentum to develop the opportunities for where we can be something more than our component parts”.
“Brexit has meant the UK is looking for other opportunities and we are always looking for international opportunities.”
Ms. Robinson said the groups also wanted progressive ideas to contribute to any free trade discussions between the two countries, stating that such initiatives (such as a bilateral research fund, sharing of research infrastructure and a special visa category for academic talent) could be built into a UK-Australia trade deal.
“We’ve got shared history,” she said. “We share so many issues. From a policy perspective we tend to learn from each other and leapfrog each other.”
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Universities Australia said the next phase of the work would involve preparing a “mapping report” identifying areas of comparative strength in the relationship, and those that could benefit from more focused attention and investment.
The mapping exercise would “draw out” existing collaborations, working in sync with both countries’ stated national priorities. The two organisations will also work with professional and statutory bodies to assess where the recognition of professional qualifications “is already well advanced, and where this could be improved”.
The cooperation between British and Australian groups comes as significant news for trade advocates and CANZUK supporters, as the prospect of mutually recognised skills emulates the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement existing between Australia and New Zealand (allowing most professionals within these two nations to practice their professions without the need for reassessment or reexamination in the other country).
With prospects of allowing students and graduates access to special visa categories as well, the CANZUK campaign would receive a significant boost by providing freer movement for academic talent between Australia and the UK, and eventually, free movement for all citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
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