16/04/2008 - 22:00

Resourceful partners

16/04/2008 - 22:00

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The steady stream of partnerships between major companies and universities may have the latter downplaying competition for private sector cash, but the overall goal of international excellence has built a healthy rivalry.

Resourceful partners

The steady stream of partnerships between major companies and universities may have the latter downplaying competition for private sector cash, but the overall goal of international excellence has built a healthy rivalry.

Last week’s announcement that the University of Western Australia had teamed up with energy company Chevron is the latest in a string of partnership announcements made predominantly by UWA and Curtin University.

UWA is the only Australian university to be selected by Chevron to join its global university partnership program. The three-year program has Chevron chipping in $2.3 million, and together with UWA’s $4.6 million, will fund a chair in natural gas process engineering, two postdoctoral appointments and two PhD scholarships.

It’s the second partnership with a major company in just over a month, after UWA formed an alliance with Alcoa worth $300,000.

UWA vice-chancellor Professor Alan Robson said the industry partnerships are the next level of business for the university, which had previously used funds from international student fees to boost its income.

“We’ve been using that funding to sustain our activities but if you’re going to go to the next plane you’re not going to keep relying on that,” Professor Robson said.

However he rejected the notion that initiating partnerships was about being number one or beating other universities in the race for private sector funds.

“I’ve set the university a task of being one of the great 50 universities in 50 years,” he said.

“If we’re going to get there, we’re not looking at our competitors in Australia, we’re looking at our competitors overseas, and I don’t believe we can achieve international excellence unless we can form those partnerships.”

The international appeal was also a major draw card for Curtin which last month announced a $10.5 million, five-year partnership with Rio Tinto to develop mine technologies to help achieve its goal of an automated mine. The alliance also provides international links for the university.

In the same month, Curtin also signed an agreement with education services provider Navitas Ltd to develop and manage a new university campus in Singapore, and formed an alliance with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy to develop programs to help strengthen the resource industry and respond to the current skills shortage.

Not to be left out, Murdoch University is expected to soon announce a partnership with Alcoa. The university last month secured a presence in the international field with the establishment of a study centre in Dubai.

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