Danish university seeks extended partnership with the University of Illinois

URBANA – As universities tighten budgets and competition increases for research and education grants, collaboration becomes an even more important piece of university strategy. University of Illinois faculty recently met with Marianne Aaro-Hansen from Aarhus University in Denmark to discuss extended collaborations, particularly in the field of animal sciences.
“By focusing our partnership with the U of I more strategically and identifying associated funding opportunities, we can all benefit more,” Aaro-Hansen said.  “Partners who have a good track record in collaboration stand better chances in obtaining funding when approaching national sources such as research councils and international sources such as the European Union’s (EU) programs.”
These collaborations will enable both universities to exchange more students at both graduate and undergraduate levels, develop targeted elite courses, and engage in the development of lecturer/teacher exchanges.
Hans H. Stein, U of I associate professor of animal sciences, is one of the professors in mind to lead a short course on behalf of the U of I animal sciences faculty. This graduate-level course on carbohydrates with an emphasis on nutrition and health in non-ruminant animals would rotate from year to year between Aarhus University and the U of I.
Graduate students from Aarhus University would travel to Illinois when the course is taught at U of I, and graduate students from U of I would travel to Denmark, when the course is being taught at Aarhus University. Aaro-Hansen believes this program would help both universities attract top talent and provide the students with valuable networks in their careers.
A proposal for this course was submitted to a Danish funding agency and if funded, Stein would collaborate with Knud Erik Back Knudsen from Aarhus University to develop the course.
“In swine nutrition, there used to be many big programs across the country,” Stein said. “Now with the belt tightening, there may only be five or six universities in the future working on swine nutrition in the United States.”

To continue to make progress in this area of research, Stein said it is critical to work with other countries to make advancements.
“No longer can everyone do everything,” he said. “We need to work together and create joint resources. It makes sense to develop partnerships with universities from other countries that have expertise in areas that complement our own expertise. Such partnerships will also provide our graduate students with international experiences that can strengthen their marketability when they graduate.”
Aarhus University’s world-class researchers, human resources assistance and government support make them a great university to partner with, Stein added.
Likewise, U of I’s reputation for high numbers of graduate students with specific interests in production animals and state-of-the-art research facilities appeals to other universities interested in animal science research, said Neal Merchen, U of I head of the Department of Animal Sciences.
This fall, Aarhus University’s head of the department of animal science will be visiting U of I in an effort to begin building these relationships and helping identify potential match-ups of faculty.
“The motivation to create programs like this comes down to individual faculty creating relationships with individual faculty at other universities,” Merchen said. “We are pleased Aarhus University is interested in partnering with us and I am sure our faculty will take advantage of this opportunity. The greater international collaboration we can develop, the more competitive our program will become in terms of attracting research dollars and the better we will be able to prepare our graduate students for a future in an increasingly global marketplace.”
Schuyler S. Korban, Director of the U of I Office of International Programs, said he is looking forward to strengthening U of I’s relationship with Aarhus University and expanding it further in an effort to internationalize graduate programs.
Korban said, “Tremendous opportunities will be available to both graduate students and faculty members in these exchanges and joint collaborative research projects.”

Published: June 22, 2010
News Source: Hans H. Stein, 217-333-0013, hstein@illinois.edu
News Writer: Jennifer Shike, 217-244-0888, jshike@Illinois.edu