Three ways to find your campus’ next strategic partner among existing contacts


Three ways to find your campus's next strategic partner among existing contacts


In an increasingly connected world, the likelihood of discovering an institution with no connections to your campus's faculty or staff is slim. While faculty and staff already work with several collaborators around the world, no one else outside of the collaboration at the university may be aware of this.


of participating university leaders reported their greatest challenge is “identifying potential strategic-level partners.”

At a recent convening of university leaders, 52% of attendees reported their greatest challenge to expanding their international partnerships is “identifying potential strategic-level partners.” Given these difficulties, finding an existing connection between your campus and a potential partner can help jump-start a long-term collaboration. However, this is difficult due to the siloed and decentralized knowledge of international connections on campus.

To help get collaborations off the ground, EAB compiled a list of tactics institutions have successfully used to identify and approach potential partners internationally. To ensure these tactics have the highest chance of success, consider these three methods of finding existing connections at potential partner institutions.

1. Examine existing associations, networks, and consortiums

University networks, such as Universitas 21 and Association of Pacific Rim Universities, typically attract like-minded institutions with shared missions and values. Collaborating with institutions within a shared group helps reduce mistrust and skepticism about the partnership’s ultimate success. Partnerships sprouting from networks and associations typically still involve one or a small number of members, but institutional familiarity may also lessen prerequisite work. Administrators are more likely to know the potential partner’s disciplinary strengths and academic goals. However, if an institution finds little in common with the other institutions in an existing association, leaders may wish to reevaluate their membership and possibly join another group to find more viable partners.

2. Audit all partnership engagements across units

Institutional international activity is often decentralized. Study abroad programs may have their own team managing contracts, while dual degree program oversight often sits with another team. Institutions should therefore centralize partnership data to understand which institutions they work closely with across multiple silos. Gather metrics such as the number of agreements, the number of engaged faculty, and the number of exchanged students to understand the trajectory of collaborations. With a comprehensive list of potential matches, leaders should then consider the potential partners’ organizational structures. For example, successful partnerships often have administrative counterparts within each institution to oversee the collaboration. Simple and consistent communication between administrative counterparts helps address potential issues before they become partnership-threatening.

3. Survey faculty to understand their connections

While campus executives could know which institutions they want to partner with, leaders may lack contacts with the potential partner to make an impactful pitch. Fortunately, faculty often know someone to give an introduction. For universities with large international offices, staff can systemically review CVs, grant databases, and travel logs to locate faculty who may have connections. For universities with fewer international staff, email surveys can help identify prior activity in relevant departments. Consider annualizing a faculty survey to provide your international office with a central repository of existing contacts. For example, prompt faculty to share their three most recent international contacts to quickly build an internal library for future communication.

Ready to find out more?

Continue the process of identifying and approaching potential partners using EAB’s Go-To-Market Tactics for International Partnerships.

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