Swansea University has strengthened its long-standing links with Texas during a high-profile visit to the state by Vice-Chancellor Paul Boyle.
It not only gave Professor Boyle the chance to take a closer look at transatlantic projects involving staff and students but also to further Swansea’s relationship with the University of Houston by signing a new agreement ensuring future collaboration.
The visit saw the Swansea University delegation accompany Welsh Minister for Education Kirsty Williams as she was welcomed at Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Methodist Research Institute as well as the University of Houston.
Among the highlights of the trip was a demonstration by surgeon Professor Ian Pallister, from Swansea University School of Medicine, of pioneering simulation models he has developed to help teach students how to treat trauma.
The party also met Swansea students currently following a collaborative PhD programme in Texas, toured state-of-the-art nano-medicine and precision medicine facilities in the Texas Medical Center and learned about research collaborations with Swansea’s Medical School, the Institute of Life Science and College of Engineering.
Professor Boyle said: “Our partnerships in Texas allow us to work with leading universities to carry out ground-breaking research and create life-changing opportunities for students.
“Together our researchers are helping to tackle some of the world’s most pressing concerns like cancer and climate change, while our study abroad programmes give students the opportunity to expand their world view and gain new skills.
“Being able to see that cooperation in action really demonstrated why these partnerships are so important and why they are flourishing."
The visit also saw the announcement of a major funding boost from the Erasmus+ project - the European Union programme for education which supports students who wish to spend time overseas.
Professor Boyle added: “Our aim is for every Swansea University student who wants to undertake a period of study or work abroad to be able to do so. We are delighted to have been awarded a significant sum for student mobility with the University of Houston for the academic year 2020/21.”
However, he warned that it is uncertain if those funds will be available if there is a no-deal Brexit, which would have detrimental effects on students and researchers in a host of ways.
Head of International Strategic Partnerships Dr Caroline Coleman-Davies, who was part of the Ministerial delegation, explained that since 2013 almost 250 students have participated in study abroad programmes between Swansea and Texas.
She said: “I hear first-hand from students the impact that studying abroad has had on them, both personally and professionally, and am very proud that both the Minister and the Vice-Chancellor have been able to visit Houston and our successful collaborations for themselves.”
Emphasising the significance of the trip, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “The Welsh Government is always looking at ways of promoting educational links with the USA and this visit created opportunities for us to advance in key areas of business in the higher education sector.
“By increasing our universities’ international partnerships we can attract more international students to Wales and also encourage more Welsh students to spend time studying, volunteering or undertaking work experience abroad.”
She urged individuals to apply for the kind of opportunities offered by the Fulbright Commission which supports Welsh postgraduate students and researchers to study in the US and American students to come to Wales, as well as the Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship programme which allows high-achieving American students with limited financial means to study at Welsh universities.
“The recent visit allowed us to build on these successes while also cementing key partnerships for the Welsh Government and those between individual Welsh and US universities,” she said.