Students and staff members of the master in innovation and knowledge development of the School of Business and Law at UiA will be traveling to London for an exchange programme at Kingston University.
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“We are very happy to have the opportunity to collaborate closer with Kingston University. We wanted to send our students to a place that had similarities with what we are teaching in terms of innovation at UiA, and simultaneously be an opportunity to experience a different culture and learning environment”, says Hans Christian Garmann Johnsen, programme director of the Master in innovation and knowledge development at UiA.
The collaboration between the University of Agder and Kingston University has been steadily developing in the past decade. Student exchange started three years ago. The first cohort of Kingston students came for one week to UiA to attend lectures, participate in events and take part in activities organised by staff and students of the master of in innovation and knowledge development at the School of Business and Law at UiA.
The arrangement has since taken place on a yearly basis. In return, UiA was offered two Erasmus spots at Kingston and, this year, an opportunity to send students of the master in innovation on a one-week exchange programme to London in March.
“We are familiar with Kingston University’s teaching methods and programmes, and by having staff members on this trip we are also encouraging an exchange of ideas among lecturers”, says Garmann Johnsen.
Helene Puntervold Meland is the leader of Novus and is currently on the fourth year of the programme.
“I am really looking forward to this trip. I am interested in seeing how the people at Kingston University do things differently from us, namely in the way they structure their lectures and to learn their perspectives on innovation. I am also curious to understand how their university culture differs from ours”, says Meland.
Kingston University sent the programme for the week in London in the beginning of February, listing a number of activities for the UiA students and lecturers.
On the schedule is a visit to the financial district City; a tour in Kingston School of Art; a visit to the Virtual Lab, where students and staff are looking into virtual reality and media; and a tour through Mini’s UK car factory in Oxford, one of the most advanced car factories in the world.
While flights and accommodation are funded by the School of Business and Law at UiA, it is Novus, the student association for the master’s programme in innovation and knowledge development, that is responsible for organising all the practicalities, such as getting students to sign up for the trip and booking plane tickets, in collaboration with the lecturers of the programme at UiA and Kingston University.
“Novus has played a very important role in the development of this exchange project. This is not something we could have organised alone as teachers, because we are completely dependent on our cooperation with them”, says Garmann Johnsen.
Novus has also been involved in the planning and preparation of student activities for Kingston students, who are expected to arrive in Grimstad in week 13. Last year, the group consisted of 15 students; the exact number for this year has not been determined yet.
Among the planned activities is a seminar with the Eyde cluster, a visit to the MIL lab, a presentation of the new master's programme and lab in entrepreneurship and a company visit to GE Healthcare, Lindesnes.
In a time when student exchange is strongly encouraged in Norway, short-term exchange programmes similar to the one with Kingston University, namely in institutions where UiA has a strategic cooperation, could represent an alternative to semester long exchange programmes, in which not all students have the opportunity to participate in.
“A short experience abroad is better than no experience at all”, says Garmann Johnsen.
The future of programmes of this nature is, however, uncertain, mostly due to financial reasons. Since the travel costs are covered by the School of Business and Law at UiA, the success of the project and budget will determine its continuation in the coming years.
UiA’s partnership with Kingston University might also be affected by the coming 29 March, which marks the implementation of Brexit.
Garmann Johnsen strongly defends the development of these programmes, underlining the positive impact they have on students and their academic performance. “The two student cohorts – UiA and Kingston students - communicate with each other, and exchange ideas and experiences.”
For those studying innovation, the importance of having this sort of experience during their student years, is even greater.
“Innovation is the understanding of what is happening here and now. It is a part of the reality we live in. Going out there and seeing the world around us is absolutely essential for what we are doing”, emphasises Garmann Johnsen.