Colleges are to build links in Africa and help regenerate countries hit by the tsunami - just two measures in a co-ordinated strategy to develop international work in the further education sector. Over the coming months, FE Focus will feature stories on those colleges and other training providers which have built successful partnerships in developing countries.
Last week, the TES launched its Make the Link campaign, which aims to encourage schools and colleges to build lasting links around the world and to highlight global issues for their students. The Association of Colleges says international work is strong in the sector, but it is often overlooked. At its annual conference in November, the AoC launched an international charter setting out the principles and good practice colleges need to build successful global partnerships.
At first, this will be policed by self-evaluation, though the association aims to hold talks with the Adult Learning Inspectorate in an attempt to make it part of the common inspection frame-work.
At least 200 colleges are engaged in some form of international work. Of those, 145 have partnerships abroad - more than a third of which are with non-European Union countries.
The AoC is also co-ordinating a number of international projects. It is leading further education's response to the Boxing Day tsunami, co-ordinating what colleges can offer to help the countries rebuild.
"They need all these skills there, and we're brimming over with them," said Jo Clough, the AoC's international policy manager. Another initiative, called Colleges for Africa, aims to get every FE college to link with a partner institution in sub-Saharan Africa.
And in a joint project run by the AoC and the British Council, a group of colleges has built links with institutions in Iraq to help train people in emerging companies amid post-war reconstruction.
One college praised for its good practice is City college, Birming-ham, which in the wake of the 1985 Handsworth riots developed strong links with its students' heritage countries, including the Caribbean islands and Pakistan.
Principal Tony Henry welcomed the Make the Link campaign. "A lot of universities and colleges have used international links for making money," he said. "That's not our purpose. "Our purpose is to try and build the links for our students with Caribbean, Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage back into those communities. It's about building on heritage and celebrating it."
Make the Link web page is www.tes.co.ukMake_the_LInk If you have or know of an innovative international partnership please email us on Make_the_Link@tes.co.uk