17/10/2017 10:32 BST | Updated 17/10/2017 10:32 BST

UK And Australian Universities Come Together In Collaboration

Dedicated followers of the international higher education agenda may have read that MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities in the UK and Australia's Regional Universities Network, chaired by Professor Greg Hill of the University of the Sunshine Coast, have signed an agreement to establish a new co-operative partnership.

Based on shared ambitions and a recognition of the key role that our universities play in adding value to their local communities, MillionPlus and RUN will work to develop greater understanding of higher education, research and innovation policy in Australia and the UK and promote the contribution of universities to regional development.

While there are vast differences in the weather and climate between the UK and Australia, higher education policy in the countries is broadly aligned. This is mirrored by the fact that MillionPlus and RUN universities share many of the same core principles. Our missions, while separated by thousands of miles geographically, are a close match.

We share a commitment, first and foremost, to our students. Many of them are the first in their family to enter higher education. We're deeply proud and united on the fact that our universities open doors to individuals of all age groups who, a generation ago, might not have been able to study for a degree. At my university, London South Bank, and at the other modern universities in MillionPlus, we are surrounded daily by students full of talent, passion and drive.

We share a commitment to world-class research, to translational research and enterprise that make a real difference to people's lives, their livelihoods and that of the business communities and public-sector organisations with which we engage. A research brochure published by RUN, sums it up perfectly: "regionally embedded, globally engaged."

In key disciplines such as agriculture (worth 12% of Australia's GDP); biological and earth sciences; and nursing and other health sciences, research at RUN universities is ranked at the highest international standards in the Excellence in Research for Australia assessment, nearly a third of it funded by industry sources.

Here in the UK, over half of the research produced by modern universities is judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent. As a barometer of how far we have come, modern universities now receive 10 times the level of research income from outside the UK than they did in 1992.

Our member universities share a commitment to drive growth and investment in our localities and to serve as anchors of our communities. Our universities are primary actors in their local economies, creating jobs, generating revenue and boosting industry. Every one of our members, across Australia and the UK, recognises the huge importance of 'place', acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between a university and its region.

Higher education is the subject of reform in both the UK and Australia and we believe that this partnership will help us to leverage our collective expertise and work with our respective governments to deliver change in the best interest of students, universities and society. This agreement is the first of its kind and evidences the willingness of our universities to work together to help shape the policy debate and its outcomes.

Following the UK's decision to leave the European Union, it is even more important for us to look to the future, not the past. Modern universities are key drivers of social mobility, economic growth and the high quality, higher education professional and technical programmes which are essential for the 21st century. Backed by our Department for International Trade, there are new imperatives to broaden our horizons and look further afield for partnerships, collaboration and knowledge exchange. It is up to us to seize these opportunities and with our colleagues in Australia we are most definitely up and running.