Feedback on the June 4 webinar on COVID-19 International Partnerships #ST7bis [fr]
Thank you to our 190 participants from over twenty-two different countries for contributing to the success of this first webinar! A proof that COVID-19 affects not only the way we currently conduct our collaborations with a shift towards the use of online services, but also the very topics on which we collaborate, this webinar was an opportunity to discuss unusual issues for many amongst us. For one hour, our four speakers have shared with us their thoughts on the new landscape of international collaborations and how strategic partnerships, student mobility and research collaborations will be structured in the coming months and years.
Professor Adid Khan, Deputy Vice-chancellor (Global engagement) of Monash University, shared his vision about the changing and expanding role universities might gain in the local landscape. The COVID-19 crisis could lead to a multiplication of exchanges in the fields of education and research, enabled by an accelerated transition to digital content (in line with the ‘megatrends’ of the 21st century), increasing the capacities and means of international networks, but at the same time enhancing the competition between institutions, or states. Positive outcomes from the crisis are expected, such as the emergence of new models of collaboration and multi-actor innovation, the expansion of open-source platforms and a slowdown in the brain drain (‘from brain-drain to brain connection’). Future students will be connected to the world, have new ways of working, and career paths based on flexibility and resilience.
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Minh-Hà Pham, Vice-president of International Relations at the University of Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL), gave us an example of how the international strategy is being implemented in the context of the COVID-19 for a major educational and research institution. The University of PSL has a very active partnership with the Australian National University. The use of digital tools allowed the teams to continue working on a strategy of adaptation during the situation of confinement and social distancing that lasted nearly six weeks in France. Subsequently, numerous video conferences and seminars were set up to communicate the vision and intentions of the school to the partners. This situation should leave a lasting footprint on teaching ways, with a mixed teaching between online and classroom, which could have a positive effect on the school’s carbon footprint. Finally, a finding shared by many actors, a more advanced orientation towards Winter/Summer schools for the 2021 academic year could make it possible to boost mobility by offering foreign students an international experience less expensive than an exchange.
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Tania Rhodes Taylor, Deputy Director of External Relations at the University of Sydney (21 exchange partnerships with France), has made relevant comments on the short, medium and long-term perspectives on student mobility. The closure of the borders led respectively 60 and 83% of French and Australian students to return to their country of origin, with the support of the institutions. Then, 98 and 86% of French and Australian students continued to take courses at their online exchange university. The University is now exploring innovative ways to optimise this virtual mobility (personalised mentoring, social link events, etc.) and to enable students to continue building their professional project (online internships, credits via short online programs, etc.). However, if online content is growing massively, both in choice and quality, the virtual seems to find its limit in university exchange. If the borders open in 2021, it is expected that a large number of students will ask for a postponement of their 2020-cancelled exchange, showing that COVID-19 has not impacted the desire of students to carry out exchanges as part of their studies.
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Finally, Jean-Paul Toutain, Director of the CNRS Bureau for ASEAN and Oceania, gave us a very interesting overview of the tools developed by the CNRS to structure the partnerships of the research institute internationally, whose level of maturity explains the recruitment within the CNRS of one out of three researchers of foreign origin. These tools include the International Research Laboratories (IRL), the International Research Projects (IRP) and the International Research Networks (IRN) explained in our Science Thursday #3. Nevertheless, COVID-19 already has a visible impact on research: experiments are postponed due to laboratory closures and lock downs, which temporarily displaces researchers’ work towards data processing and document writing. For their part, if collaborations can be organized through online meetings and seminars, the restrictions on mobility could, in the long term, disadvantage the scientific development of countries with limited access to the Internet. Finally, the continuity of international collaborations will be determined by the choice of countries between prioritizing their economy by reducing the funds allocated for research, or on the contrary supporting the sector, by allocating funds for its mutation.