Scots links Down Under

4th July 2008 at 01:00
I believe there are more similarities between the Australian further education system and the Scottish than any other country in Europe
I believe there are more similarities between the Australian further education system and the Scottish than any other country in Europe.

Last year, after a long search across most of Europe, we signed a strategic partnership between my institution and Adam Smith College in Fife. We felt the college was a leading institution in the region and, with partnerships in place across North and South America, Asia and the Pacific, we were keen to secure a partner with whom we could work in Europe.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of international collaboration and partnership. We strive for not just regional or national excellence, but international excellence. There is so much we can learn from sharing best practice internationally; like an Olympic athlete, working at such a level forces us to look to continual improvement in order to remain competitive. Working with strategic international partners also allows us to offer a wide range of new opportunities for staff and students, access previously unavailable funding streams and address common challenges.

The contexts and challenges we face in Australia and, in particular, in my native state of Victoria, are remarkably similar to those experienced by our colleagues here in Scotland. We too are facing current and projected skills shortages in key industries, and we also have considerable numbers of disengaged young people. In Victoria, there are 1.4 million people in the workforce who are not qualified to diploma level or above, and we face significant problems with low levels of adult literacy and numeracy among certain population groups.

On a practical level, our partnership with Adam Smith College will improve the learning experience of our respective students through student and teacher exchanges. By learning from each others' cultures, learning styles and educational processes, we can look at continuously improving our learning and teaching practices.

We have benchmarked our curriculum against Adam Smith's. This has enabled us to identify study areas which we can target to let students undertake international study exchanges without putting progress at risk. We have worked together on a submission for funding, and are in the process of developing joint vocational qualifications in hospitality and construction, which includes work and study in both countries.

John Maddock is chief executive officer and president of the Box Hill Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and former president of the Post- Secondary International Network.

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