Across the Pond

USF stages its first European Exposition, opening new academic and research opportunities.


By Vickie Chachere

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 28, 201) – Behind the stately walls of Windsor Castle last week, a group of prominent British and American academics began putting shape to what the global future of higher education might look like soon: students and professors engaging in truly global learning that crosses borders and cultures.


The meeting, which came at the behest of President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron who have advocated for greater cooperation between the U.S. and U.K. university systems, was a more formal take on an effort USF has already put into action: pursuing global academic and research connections designed to broaden and enhance education for students who will have to compete and succeed in a globalized future.


To that end, USF staged its first European Exposition in London this month, opening new connections with would-be students and academic researchers in the U.K. and across Europe in ways never seen before. Over a two-day event in London Oct. 14 and 15, more than 150 prospective students, academic researchers and education officials met their USF counterparts and forged new connections.


British students and parents at the European Exposition

More than 80 parents and students joined USF academic leaders, faculty and students in London for the first European Exposition, an event designed to reach thousands of British students who are facing new decisions in where they should go to college and strengthen educational cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K.

Photo by Jock Fistick

The exposition served two purposes: to put USF on the radar screens of thousands of British students who are facing rising tuition costs that come as a result of austerity measures amid the global recession and who now are considering American universities; and to connect USF researchers – some of who already have active projects with British counterparts – to those overseas also working on solutions to crucial world issues.


“It’s incredibly exciting,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, who spearheaded the European Exposition and lead a discussion on multilateral education opportunities that would incorporate emerging economies such as India and Brazil. “It aligns perfectly with the vision of what USF aspires to make available for students and faculty. It aligns perfectly with our research mission.”


The new focus on coordinating U.S.-U.K. higher education policy comes at a crucial time for the higher education and its role in the global economy.


While both nations continue to lead the world in higher education, there is widespread recognition that more needs to be done to prepare students for careers that will invariably involve emerging economies around the world. What nations such as India and Brazil lack in the capacity to provide educational opportunities at home, they make up for in growing numbers of students eager to travel abroad for their studies.


But a true global education, Wilcox argues, shouldn’t be grounded in a 20th Century model of students simply traveling from one country to another for their schooling. It should involve multiple countries, and more importantly encourage British and American students to include study abroad in their academic careers.


More than 800 USF students studied abroad last year, a number which university leaders intend to grow through such innovative efforts as the $1 million endowment created by USF President Judy Genshaft and her husband Steven Greenbaum to support students’ international academic experiences.


Meanwhile, fewer than 2 percent of U.K. students study abroad, the British Council reports; USF has only about 20 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.K. and smaller numbers from other European nations.


That, though, is likely to change as British universities raise the cost of tuition by as much three times the current rate beginning in 2012. At current exchange rates, USF’s non-resident tuition of just under $15,000 a year became competitive with what British universities are likely to charge, and coupled with a lower cost of living and an exchange rate that favors the British pound, education in America is now seen as a viable option.


Couple with admissions cutbacks that may see as many as 170,000 qualified British students unable to secure admission to a U.K. university, the opportunity to take those first steps in creating  truly global education experience for current USF students and prospective students across Europe has presented itself, Wilcox noted.


So for a single day, European students needed only to make their way to central London to spend a day with USF faculty members such as chemist Bill Baker who is leading an international anti-malaria project, historian Phil Levy who discovered George Washington’s boyhood home and Ali Yalcin, an associate professor at the Industrial and Management Systems Engineering Department.


“I had a sense the undergraduate students were seeing this as a real opportunity to come to the states and do something they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” said Eric Eisenberg, Dean of USF’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Partly because we offered subjects they didn’t have and they can explore a broader range of disciplines here.


“Many of them had some familiarity with Florida. What they needed to see was this is an institution that would welcome them.’


Four USF students pursuing degrees ranging from communications to biomedical sciences introduced prospective students to campus life, and Rocky D. Bull broke down any cultural barriers that might have existed with his antics. For three of the students, the London trip was their first venture beyond U.S. borders, underscoring the importance of international educational experiences.


“The U.K. students were great to talk to,” said Marcus Graham, a junior in communications. “They were interested in the academic programs offered at USF, but I didn't have one conversation without discussing the amazing Tampa weather!  The weather was definitely a big selling point for them.  They were also interested in the opportunities to join student organizations, sports, and other experiences to get involved outside the classroom.”   


USF already has considerable ties to the United Kingdom through research projects and student exchange activities. The European Exposition drew researchers from as far away as Norway and Spain to London for conversations with Karen Holbrook, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs and Stephen Klasko, Senior Vice President for USF Health and Dean of the College of Medicine to explore potential new collaborations.


For example, USF’s College of Engineering is a partner with University of Exeter in one of just 37 seed grants from the British Council UK-US Partnership Fund and supports research in sustainable water systems. Professor Jeffrey Krischer, the world’s leading researcher in diabetes and chief of epidemiology and biostatistics at USF’s College of Medicine, has two of his multi-million dollar research projects based in the U.K.


USF students are actively engaged in exchange programs with notable British universities, including two highly popular exchange programs for business students at University of Glamorgan and Middlesex University. And one of USF’s most notable scholars, Eminent Scholar and DeBartolo Professor of Humanities Pat Rogers, was elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy in 2008.


USF also has joined with London-based INTO University Partnerships in a successful academic pathway and English language programs designed and delivered by USF faculty to prepare international students for successful transition to a degree program at the university.


The partnership has produced record numbers of international students coming to USF with 590 students from 33 countries enrolled for Fall 2011 at the INTO USF center, a 27 percent increase over Fall 2010 enrollment. Some 92 percent of the students who have completed the Pathways program – a year-long language and cultural enrichments program designed to prepare them for American academics – have gone on to enroll in a USF degree program.


USF's European Exposition is funded through the USF Foundation. No public funds are used to support this initiative.


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.