Last month I spent 10 very productive days visiting current and prospective institutional partners in Bogota, Columbia, and Santiago, Chile, with the Executive Director of International, Chris Riley. This was my first visit to both countries.
Latin America is an area of rapidly growing strategic focus for ACU. The University is pursuing a highly targeted engagement strategy aimed at developing relationships with key partner universities in the region. The intention is that these partnerships will offer opportunities not only for student mobility but also for significant collaboration in research, teaching and community engagement.
Over the 10-day period we visited a total of six key Catholic universities. In Bogota we visited Universidad La Sabana, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and the Universidad Catolica de Colombia. At this stage ACU does not have an agreement with any universities in Colombia, so this trip provided an ideal opportunity to meet with institutions where we have a developing mutual interest. It also provided a chance for us to encourage their leadership teams to come to Melbourne for the IFCU General Assembly in July.
Whilst each of these institutions is distinctive in terms of their history, disciplines and student enrolment, they all have strong Catholic identities that defined their mission and purpose. Our discussions highlighted how much we have in common and enabled us to discuss some key areas of interest.
In Santiago, ACU has strong relationships with three Catholic universities, the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (UC), Universidad Alberto Hurtado, and Universidad Santo Tomas. Each of these universities has an active relationship with ACU, and the strength and depth of these partnerships provide excellent examples of the University’s growing commitment to the region.
The Pontificia Universidad de Chile is ranked the number one university in Latin America by QS Top Universities, and I’m absolutely delighted at how swiftly and comprehensively ACU’s relationship with UC is developing.
During my visit, UC and ACU signed a joint student exchange agreement, and UC will welcome the first cohort of 10 nursing students for a short study program in July this year. As well as developing research collaboration in the area of health science, ACU already has an active and growing research relationship with UC’s School of Education.
One of the other highlights of my visit to Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile was the opportunity to participate in the launch of the English UC Centre. As ACU is the key partner in this centre, I was honoured with the opportunity to speak at the ceremony. ACU has a significant role in this new centre and is partnering in the development of curriculum, teacher training and student mobility. To date there has already been staff exchange and work undertaken in each of these important areas. In 2016 we will welcome the first cohort of students who will be undertaking their English immersion program at ACU as part of their language program.
As well as providing me with an excellent opportunity to develop my knowledge of the Latin American context for higher education, this trip also gave me a chance to reflect on the important leadership position that Catholic universities have in higher education around the world and on ACU’s growing role in the region.