Finding international partners and developing effective working relationships with them is essential for any education or training provider wishing to run successful Turing Scheme study and work placements.
While this is an area in which higher education (HE) providers are well versed, it is perhaps not something of which further education and vocational education and training (FE/VET) organisations and schools necessarily have much experience, if any.
With a whole world of scope, it can be daunting to know where to start when looking for international partners and, even if you identify organisations you would like to work with, how to make an initial approach to them.
To help you take the first steps towards finding and establishing those connections around the globe we have come up with five top tips.
1. Contact your local council about twin towns and cities
Many towns and cities across the United Kingdom are twinned with counterparts around Europe and the world. Indeed, many have multiple twinning arrangements in place.
Some of these arrangements will be formal and some on a more informal basis but in all cases there will be international links established with authorities and organisations in the twinned towns and cities who may be able to facilitate introductions to potential partners.
Get in touch with your local council and explain what your aims are and the connections you are looking to establish and you will likely find that staff there will be more than willing to support and help you.
2. Utilise local university expertise
We have already mentioned that higher education institutions are generally experienced in international relations and partnerships – and the knowledge and expertise they have developed over many years could potentially help schools and colleges too.
Perhaps you already have links with your local university. If so, why not approach its international office and ask what approach the university takes when establishing and maintaining links with organisations abroad.
You may even find that the university itself has links with schools and colleges overseas, or that its partners have similar links in place in their own countries, all of which could open doors for introductions to good potential partners.
3. Contact cultural organisations and embassies
A wide range of cultural organisations exist, both in the UK and around the world, who have an interest in education and fostering international collaboration within the sector. Contacting any of these and explaining your needs may be another fruitful way of garnering introductions.
The British Council is particularly active in this area, for instance, and actually has a range of resources available to help schools develop international relations, including an online partner finding tool.
Similarly, UK embassies abroad and foreign embassies in the UK, are likely to have established connections with educational bodies and institutions in countries across the world and may be in a position to facilitate introductions.
4. Leverage existing relationships
It may well be the case, especially in large multi-academy trusts and multi-site colleges, for instance, that certain staff or departments already have international contacts that could be leveraged to facilitate Turing Scheme placement opportunities. There may even be existing partnerships in place in relation to other programmes or initiatives.
It is always worth putting out feelers within your institution to see if that is the case and, if so, ascertaining whether those relationships can be expanded to include potential Turing Scheme activities.
5. Do your own research
We are, of course, living in the age of the world wide web and by using a few carefully chosen words, phrases or hashtags to scour the internet and social media there’s every chance that you will find several likely partners.
You’ll be able to find out about them, and gauge their suitability, from their websites, social media accounts and general online presence. In most cases, you will probably be able to find some contact details too – and maybe even specific staff names and responsibilities.
There’s nothing to lose in sending a speculative email to any organisation you think may be a good partner.
You may also find sector organisations which may be able to support you in finding partners. The Global School Alliance, for instance, offers a partner-finding tool as well as access to a directory of thousands of member schools in 125 countries to make direct contact and establish new relationships/partnerships.
Good luck in your partner search
Finally, when looking for potential partners for your Turing Scheme activities, we strongly advise checking the eligibility criteria for host organisations on the Turing Scheme website or in our detailed Programme Guide. This will avoid finding out later that a new partner you have worked hard to connect with is not suitable.
Now it’s over to you. Happy partner hunting!
Read more about international engagement through the Turing Scheme