International and University Cooperation

International cooperation and collaboration of universities are forms of working together to attain the best results in student learning and research. International university cooperation is part of the much wider arena of international cooperation that has evolved since the end of the Cold War.

The topic of international university cooperation has long been on the agendas of governmental and institutional bodies, but it was not until a few years ago that it began to be considered an important aspect of the processes of education and research [6]. It has been prominent in recent times and has become a significant and important university activity.

In recent years, universities have managed to include international cooperation and international relations as integral to their missions and functions by assuming the responsibility of cooperating with other institutions. However, the development of international cooperation in university life has often been a laborious process and cooperation policy has developed into a set of organizational strategies [6]. International cooperation among universities is one of many in the range of university activities which does not have a readily recognizable, directly visible profile in terms of quality improvement.

Unfortunately, the expected benefits from international cooperation in universities are as yet unclear to the majority. It is sometimes considered as an unnecessary expense, an obligation, or as an activity undertaken purely for reasons of prestige. Despite these rather negative viewpoints, university cooperation has been recently successfully incorporated into the institutional structure of an increasing number of universities. Most universities currently have an office or administration in charge of international university cooperation, with a definite strategy and an action plan, and carry out a series of international activities [7]. However, it is important not to confuse the mere fact of undertaking international activities with having an actual, plausible, effective, and beneficial policy of development cooperation. It must be understood that simply having a significant number of foreign students or some courses on international topics does not necessarily imply or mean that the concerned institution actually implements and practices real tangible international development cooperation.

In recent years, rising expectations have been generated with regard to the need to adopt new perspectives in actions of international university cooperation directed toward less-developed countries. However, universities need to attain a more secure and prominent situation in the arena of international development cooperation than many NGOs have apparently been able to manage in recent years. Therefore, university authorities should overcome budgetary constraints and other impediments in order to pursue the necessary efforts to enhance the incorporation of international cooperation in their institutions.

Technical international cooperation is one form of international university cooperation. Back in the nineteenth century, Alfred Nobel stated: “To spread knowledge is to spread well-being”. Technical cooperation could be said to have its origins in this premise and has certainly developed to its present state in accordance with this view. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines technical cooperation as “the activities whose primary aim is to increase the level of knowledge, technologies, practical know-how or productive attitudes of the population of developing countries, that is to say, to increase their reserve of human intellectual capital or their ability to use their current resources with greater efficiency” [3, 7]. As technical cooperation is the key issue of this chapter, a more comprehensive definition follows.

Technical cooperation can be defined as the branch of development cooperation that uses the provision of know-how in the form of personnel, training, research, and associated costs of development. It includes contributions to development primarily through the medium of education and training to increase the level of knowledge, skills, technical know-how, or productive aptitudes of the population of developing countries, which in turn increases their stock of human intellectual capital, or their capacity for more effective use of their existing factor endowment [3, 7].

The basic aim of technical cooperation is to support the ability of people and organizations in creating, adapting, strengthening, and sustaining their capacity to set their own objectives. Its aims are that countries or institutions with a more advanced level of development in certain areas contribute to the solution of specific problems of less-developed countries or institutions through the transference and interchange of scientific and technological capacity and of human and material resources.

This cooperation mode considers education as the engine driving the transformation of expanding economies. Technical cooperation between developed and less-developed countries can take several forms such as expert services, scholarships, transference of equipment and supplies, sending of bibliographical material, and interchange of information and experience. Mobility is the area in which universities have incorporated international cooperation into their activities par excellence. Today's technical cooperation remains one of cooperation's most visible aspects.

Technical cooperation is often associated with actions intended to strengthen individual and organizational capacity through offering wide-ranging technical opportunities to its beneficiaries. Technical cooperation can be specified as:

• Education cooperation—student, expert, and teacher exchange, language learning, joint degrees, and curricula developments;

• Research cooperation—carrying out joint research activities;

• Training cooperation—developing training programs and supplying training equipment and materials;

• Cultural cooperation—development-oriented social and cultural programs; and

• Scholarships.

With increasing globalization, countries' economic and social development is increasingly determined by their scientific and technological capacity, knowledge production, and volume of information flow. Universities cannot excuse themselves from the discussion of these development issues. Universities have become fundamental actors in international cooperation, especially as far as technical cooperation is concerned.

 
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