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Strategic Alliance

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A strategic alliance is an arrangement between two or more organisations with mutual interests to undertake activities which brings mutual benefits, collaborating where it makes sense to do so, and bringing tangible benefits to the partners.

Strategic alliances can be short or long-term and the agreement should support all partners to work towards a common, shared goal. They alliance builds on the collective strength of the organisations, whilst respecting individual identity and independence.

A strategic alliance in tertiary education could produce a collaborative, agreed plan of work on key areas across academic, vocational, and regional priorities. A strategic alliance may be particularly beneficial where new opportunities or enhancements would not be possible without additional resource and collaboration.

An alliance can provide more structure and strategic direction to a collaboration and support better relationships with industry and local businesses.

We anticipate that institutions will use their regular engagement with their Outcome Manager to keep SFC informed of opportunities and developments of strategic alliances. SFC may be able to provide additional expertise to support the development of alliances, as well as share best practice at a sector level.

Case studies

The University of Strathclyde and Strathclyde Students' Union

The alliance builds upon the current student partnership agreement incorporating common objectives as well as focusing on the needs of an ever-evolving student body. To deliver the alliance, the two executives will agree key objectives for each academic year.

These objectives will be positioned in the context of creating an outstanding student experience and include:

  • Ensuring the student voice and representation is at the heart of their work.
  • Empowering student advice and support services.
  • Developing and improving an outstanding student experience.
  • Incorporating emerging technologies into teaching and the wider student experience.
  • Ensuring a safe and accessible campus.
  • Maintaining the University’s sector-leading graduate outcomes.
  • Taking a collaborative approach to sharing information
  • Taking pride in both organisations’ practices and celebrating achievements.
  • Putting sustainability at the heart of each organisation’s offering.

University of South Wales and five partner colleges

Formed in 2013, the alliance is a vision and commitment from all partners to work together to create new opportunities for learning, employment, and social inclusion. It will produce a joint plan of work in key areas including academic, vocational, and regional priorities, skills, progression pathways, curricula development, industry engagement and applied research. The alliance between the university and the partner colleges is vital in providing a bridge for learners to access higher education, delivered in local settings, with flexible learning options, focusing on courses tailored to local skills demands.

Scotland’s Rural College and Borders College

Signed in June 2023, Borders College and SRUC have entered into a programme of work to explore options for closer alignment and partnership working. The goal is to harness the full potential of both organisations to create a joined up tertiary education, research and knowledge exchange ecosystem that makes a positive contribution to national prosperity. This will build on the work already undertaken by the institutions as part of the South of Scotland Rural Pathfinder Project and also consider the following:

  • The Scottish Funding Council’s Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability.
  • James Withers’ Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape.
  • The Scottish Government’s Review of Post School Education, Research and Skills Purpose and Principles.
  • Professor Hayward’s forthcoming Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment.
  • The Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation.
  • SRUC’s pending Taught Degree Awarding Powers application.
  • The Scottish Government’s place-based agenda to support regional economic development.
  • The Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review and the Entrepreneurial Campus.

The statement of strategic intent recognises that working in partnership can add significant value to the economy of the south of Scotland and enrich opportunities for students and businesses, while contributing to the Scottish Government priorities for skills development and economic transformation.  The partnership will also see both institutions contribute to the funding of a shared innovation manager role.

University of Stirling, Forth Valley College and NHS Forth Valley

Launched in October 2022, the partnership is the first formal regional partnership between a health board, university, and college in Scotland. Building on a long-standing relationship between the three institutions, it will work across four priority areas: learning, careers, research, and innovation.  Its mission is to improve patient care and treatments, and boost health research and staff learning across the region.  It aims to deliver transformational change to the health of the area through the delivery of new learning and development opportunities for students and staff working across local health and care services.

The collaboration will bring together the three organisations’ unique wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience to create a nerve centre for world-class research and innovation. It will also directly respond to the needs of local people by reaching into a wide range of settings – from hospitals, health centres and social care settings to care homes and classrooms.

The learning strand of the partnership will set a new bar for collaborative approaches to attracting and retaining talent in the sector. By developing new learning and education programmes to train the future heath and care workforce, the Partnership will ensure skills students gain during their studies directly correlate to the needs of the NHS on the ground.

Career development will also be a key focus, with the partnership aiming to attract and retain the brightest and best staff to drive forward improvements across all three organisations.

In the future, a new Regional Skills Academy will be created to deliver a world class programme of clinical, health improvement and social care education. A Quality Improvement and People Academy will follow, creating a hub to share best practice, develop leadership skills, and further develop career progression opportunities for staff.

In the spheres of research and innovation, the ambition is to secure increased funding to champion integrated and novel research projects which have a direct impact on patients’ lives and are immediately relevant in clinical settings.

The three partners will work together to address challenges facing local communities, and tackle inequality. Developing new tests and treatments in areas such as cancer, and mental health, will lead to substantial local health improvements.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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