Chris Rudd, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham on Transnational Education

Professor Chris D Rudd, BSc PhD DSc CEng FIMechE FIM
Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Nottingham

Chris Rudd began his career as a sea-going engineer with the P&O Steam Navigation Company. He has been a faculty member at Nottingham since 1989 and is well known for his work on lightweight structures and fibre technology. He is a former Dean of Engineering and has held the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Vice President) since 2008. His responsibilities include External Engagement – business partnerships, commercialisation and philanthropic fundraising. Much of his recent work has focused on Asia where he has led many trade visits and developed a string of R&D partnerships with the corporate sector. He is a director of the China-Britain Business Council and a regular commentator on University-led innovation and east-west technology exchange.

Rahul – University of Nottingham has been an exemplar for many institutions seeking to internationalize. What are the top two priorities of the University for next three years in continuing the internationalization agenda? What role do you and your office play in meeting the priorities?

Chris – The last decade has been incredibly exciting as UoN has gone from tentative startup mode to being a confident leader in the roll-out of global education programmes. Have observed that journey first as a faculty member and secondly as one of UoN’s Vice-Presidents I would go so far as to say that TNE has, to a large extent, redefined the institution self-image. The watershed came, I think, when Nottingham’s overseas campuses became embedded in the community as an integral part of “whom we are” rather seen as a whim of senior management. There is no easy win here, but a need for persistent engagement and frequent staff and student exchange to promote the quality of our Asian operations, the excellence of the students and the impact we are having in those host communities.

If faculty and students are going to embrace overseas campuses as part of the family then they need to be able recognize the defining features of the parent. A research intensive parent needs to have research intensive branch campuses. Business engagement, knowledge exchange, CSR and philanthropy programmes – these are all part of the package and key components of our diversification strategy as our communities bed in to new surroundings.

It has been a privilege to help develop UoN’s agendas in Malaysia and China. Very soon after the first graduates appeared from in-country delivery I was asked to explore the wider benefits that could be leveraged from an Asian footprint. Here we have benefited greatly from first mover advantage and secured some fantastic local partners in the state and private sectors. Access to overseas technology and internationally trained talent is, for the time being, a key attraction for partners. Being close to the market and recognized as a long term investor in both regions delivers profound opportunities – both for UoN and for our existing western business partners.

Rahul – How do you see the business and technology shaping the future of transnational education, especially for infrastructure-intensive branch campuses?

Chris – Although we support research and education links on a worldwide basis Asia has become our USP over the past decade. As we increasingly embed ourselves in that region our network of contacts and market intelligence brings many opportunities. Local presence means that the critical process of relationship management is much smoother than when the partners are separated by 5,000 miles, even with the benefits of communications technology.

Business to business partnerships are not simply desirable for western HEIs entering Asia – they are mission-critical in the medium term. Business links help to demonstrate the value-add to graduates from a relatively expensive overseas qualification, they provide resource to support research and they demonstrate to host governments the economic impact of admitting foreign HE providers. They form one component of a holistic branch campus operation. Naturally there are challenges; staff turnover tends to be higher than it is in the west and the ratio of junior faculty to senior professors is also somewhat higher. However, these are growing pains and compensated by the exclusivity that goes with being an early mover as well as the talent and energy of our students and junior faculty.

We’re often asked about our response to an implied competitive threat from other foreign startups, from MOOCs or from Asian institutions moving west. These are all healthy consequences of an increasingly diversified, global market. The HE sector is heterogeneous and different forms of delivery work more or less well for different styles of institution. UoN has set a benchmark for campus delivery and it is likely that we will pursue that in the medium term, focusing on quality of experience, breadth of activity and networking our global assets.