The benefits of international partnerships

Over to you: Professor Judith Lamie


Since joining the University of Derby as Pro Vice-Chancellor, External Affairs last summer, Professor Judith Lamie has made international partnerships one of her top priorities. Jeremy Swan speaks to her to find out more about Derby’s international ambitions and the benefits of thinking globally.


Developing a global outlook

“Many of the challenges we face today, from food security to climate change, are issues that affect all people. As far as I am concerned, the only way we can overcome these challenges is to work together globally.”

Her firm belief in the benefits of thinking globally stems from her own experiences of engaging with other cultures – an opportunity that she would like to bring to more students in Derby.

“Early on in my career I went out to teach in Japan and this experience really opened up my mind. I came from a strong working class background and was the first person in my family to go to university. I hadn’t even been outside the UK before, so this was a fantastic opportunity for me. I learned as much about myself as I did about the country itself. I still get that same experience whenever I visit new cities or countries today.

“Having that exposure to other cultures helps broaden people’s minds and so we’re looking to grow the number of international students at the University of Derby. You can learn so much from the people who you study with and international students – and indeed staff – bring a great cultural enrichment to the institution.”

International students and partnerships

There’s no doubt that international students bring significant benefits. In fact the majority of British people don’t regard them as immigrants, believing they should be entitled to work for a fixed period of time after graduation (see The Economic Impact of International Students and What the British public really think about international students) This is a view shared by Judith.

“International students shouldn’t be included in the migration statistics because they are hugely important, not just to the Higher Education sector, but to the country as a whole. In economic terms, Derby’s international students and their families contribute over £14 million to the local economy every year.

“This benefit could be increased if the Government were to follow the example of countries like Australia and reinstate post study work for international students. Not only will international students contribute more to the UK economy over the duration of their stay, but they will develop an even stronger and deeper connection to Derby. If they work in a local company for, let’s say, a year before going home, then there’s an increased chance they will do business with Derby in the future because they have links to the business community.”

Making connections with organisations and universities around the world is a fundamental part of the University of Derby’s ambitious international strategy.

“We have some really strong partnerships with some world-renowned global players. One of these is with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in which our data science, cloud computing and electronic engineering experts have an associate membership of ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). We’re also partnered with the University of Jiangsu and Tongji University in China, and we’re exchanging students and staff, as well as collaborating on major research projects. Partnerships like these are hugely beneficial and our ambition is to extend our academic and industrial connections worldwide.

“Internationalisation of the student experience is also an important aim of our International Strategy. An internationalised curriculum and the development of opportunities for international placements will provide an intellectually stimulating environment and enhance the student experience. We therefore want our students to have as many opportunities as possible to study, volunteer or work abroad, and some of this can be achieved through the increased development of exchange programmes. These kind of experiences will open up more opportunities for them to secure excellent jobs in the future and that’s something that we’re passionate about. Crucially, you can only do things like that if you establish mutually beneficial arrangements with overseas partners.”

The challenge of Brexit

One big challenge facing the country in the wake of the Brexit vote is convincing the world that Britain is open for business. Judith believes there are lots of opportunities that Derby could benefit from if we can get this message across.

“It’s very interesting that whenever I go overseas, whether it’s China, Botswana or Switzerland, one of the first topics of conversation is Brexit. It’s become a global concern and one of the issues is around the level of uncertainty. We simply don’t know what is going to happen. If we take education as an example, there’s a recognition on both sides of the channel that the UK education system is still very much connected to Europe. We don’t yet know what that future relationship will look like but it’s vitally important for us to continue to collaborate closely on exchange programmes and research projects with our European partners.

“International partnerships will be key to Britain’s long-term prosperity and as a country, we need to make it very clear that we are not turning our back on the world. I recently joined a Derbyshire delegation to Anhui province in China. Anhui is a huge province – about the size of the UK – and there are numerous opportunities for us to collaborate with them on areas such as trade, education, culture, tourism, skills and investment projects. Derby has so much to offer the world and I’m delighted that Derbyshire officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding with their Chinese counterparts, which I’m sure will mark the beginning of a fruitful partnership.

“We want Derby to flourish and local people to benefit from good employment opportunities. We therefore need to increase our economic output and partnership working offers a way to achieve this.

“It’s no longer about what you can achieve individually. You can achieve so much more by working with others who share your ambitions.”

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