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ACE’s CIGE Expands Support for Global Partnerships

November 15, 2017

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​​These are fluid, dynamic times for partnership development, in which institutions are rethinking what they want from partnerships, recognizing both the value and the responsibilities that come with linking to another institution, exercising more intentionality and prioritization, and re-imagining themselves not as ensconced scholarly communities but as participants in a global community of higher education.—Jane Gatewood and Susan Buck Sutton, Internationalization in Action (2017)

ACE’s Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses report released earlier this year showed a substantial uptick in international partnership activity since 2008. U.S. institutions are using international collaboration to make progress toward their goals for student learning, education abroad, international student enrollment, research production, and more. 

But we see big differences in the level of partnership activity across U.S. higher education sectors. For example, the Mapping report found that 63 percent of doctoral institutions responding to the survey have increased partnership activity in the last three years, whereas 44 percent of associate-level institutions reported having no partnerships at all. 

A number of new initiatives at ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement (CIGE) aim to support all types of institutions seeking to create new international partnerships and strengthen existing ones. Here is a glimpse of what we are doing:

Bilateral Dialogues

On Oct. 5, CIGE joined with the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) to organize a dialogue between 11 university representatives from Norway and 10 from the United States interested in greater cooperation with the other country. 

The group discussed a range of shared goals and interests—from student exchange to climate science research—as well as some key differences and challenges to expanded activity. Susan Buck Sutton, ACE senior internationalization advisor and a leading expert on international partnerships, noted the potential for Norway to become a more popular destination for U.S. students because of courses offered in English, the availability of student housing, and the overall high quality of Norwegian higher education. 

Some institutions around the table, including George Mason University (VA), have received funding for their partnership activities from SIU, an agency of the Norwegian Ministry of Education. ACE and SIU are exploring ways to further support this type of collaboration.


The U.S.-Norway dialogue was the latest in a series of partnership-focused meetings that ACE has organized with counterpart national associations. As part of ACE2017, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, CIGE and Universities UK arranged a dialogue between U.S. attendees and a delegation of international education leaders from the United Kingdom. CIGE also worked with the Association of Colombian Universities to facilitate networking for a group of Colombian university rectors attending ACE2017 whose participation was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. 

CIGE Global Connections 

In December, CIGE will launch its first Global Connections program, a four-day site visit to London for selected U.S. higher education leaders organized in partnership with Universities UK International (UUK). During the “U.K. Networking Intensive,” U.S. participants will meet with counterparts in London, deepen their understanding of the British higher education system, and spend one day on a university campus. CIGE director Robin Matross Helms will lead the program, along with Sean O’Conner, head of international engagement (non-EU) at UUK.

The idea for the Global Connections-U.K. program grew out of the U.S.-U.K. dialogue that took place during ACE2017 and follows recommendations from CIGE’s May 2017 report, U.K.-U.S. Higher Education Partnerships: Firm Foundations and Promising Pathways

Research and Resources

A number of recent CIGE publications focus on good practices for developing and managing international higher education partnerships and on specific bilateral relationships between U.S. institutions and partners abroad. 

The current series of CIGE’s "Internationalization in Action" online reports explores four key aspects of international partnerships: definitions and dimensions, strategic planning, institutional support structures, and individual partnerships. Two of the four installments are now available, and the others will be posted soon. Each installment includes links to institutional programs and policies, and recommends good practices. Authors for the series are senior international education leaders who have primary responsibility on their campuses for managing partnerships.

Two recent CIGE Insights reports take stock of existing higher education partnership activity between the United States and Mexico and the United States and the United Kingdom, with recommendations for strengthening and expanding collaboration with both countries:

The next in this series of CIGE Insights reports will look at the status of U.S.-Japan higher education relations.

The 2017 edition of CIGE’s signature report Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses documents trends in partnership strategy, staffing, guidelines, geographic focus, and scope of activity.

CIGE’s online Internationalization Toolkit features a section dedicated to collaboration and partnerships, with examples of programs and agreements, policies, and assessment methods from a wide range of higher education institutions.

ACE Working Group on Global Partnerships

Nearly a third of institutions that responded to the 2016 Mapping Internationalization survey said they employ a staff member whose primary responsibility is developing and managing international partnerships. 

In 2014, ACE began informally convening a group of these professionals with the goal of learning more about their roles on campus, emerging issues and trends in the field of partnership management, and the group’s needs for professional development support. Several members have contributed their insights to the current series of Internationalization in Action focused on partnerships. 

COIL/Virtual Exchange

The use of online communication for internationalizing student learning is rapidly expanding: In 2011, 20 percent of institutions responding to the Mapping survey reported activity in this area, and by 2016 that had increased to 32 percent. 

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is a pedagogical approach developed and promoted by the State University of New York’s COIL Consulting Center that involves shared teaching and learning between faculty and students at partner institutions in two or more countries. In April, CIGE and COIL Consulting organized the first-ever ACE COIL Leadership Academy for campus teams interested in establishing or strengthening campus-wide programs. On Nov. 1, ACE announced the U.S.-Japan COIL Initiative, a two-year pilot project aimed at strengthening relations between U.S. and Japanese institutions through new COIL collaborations, with funding from the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo.

To learn more about CIGE’s resources and programs to support international higher education collaboration, contact us at cige@acenet.edu or +1-202-939-9300.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn​. Join the COIL and Virtual Exchange LinkedIn Group.​

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