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Tri-continental university partnership, PLuS Alliance, launches first degrees

The PLuS Alliance, a partnership between three leading universities in the UK, US and Australia, has launched its first pilot courses and begun developing joint undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The first courses on offer through the PLuS Alliance's Virtual Onine Exchange include a Master of History and Master of Engineering offered by ASU and a Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence from UNSW.

The alliance recently launched its first virtual course exchanges between the universities in public health postgraduate degrees

The tri-continental initiative between King’s College London, Arizona State University and the University of New South Wales launched in February as an innovative model to facilitate not only research collaboration but also joint programmes and exchanges.

“It provides multiple ways to experience three universities rather than just the traditional mobility piece”

The project, which has a number of dedicated staff across the three member institutions and a London-based CEO, promises to radically change the learning experience for students.

“It is really exciting, because it is not just one or two joint dual degrees or one or two independent research projects; it is effectively creating a larger university,” Chris Payne, head of KCL’s North America office, told The PIE News.

The PLuS Alliance – whose name signifies Phoenix, London, Sydney, where the three universities are located – will offer both virtual and physical exchanges, enabling students to enrol on modules offered by another university either on campus or online.

It will also go further by creating tri-university degrees that allow students to spend time on all three campuses and graduate with a joint degree.

“As we move forward in developing programmes, the idea is having different exit and entry points,” explained Payne.

“You might start your programme at [ASU in] Phoenix, you might decide in a two year graduate degree, I want to spend a year at ASU and then I want to do a semester at NSW or King’s; or you might want to base yourself primarily at ASU and do online at the other two institutions, so it really provides multiple ways to experience three universities rather than just the traditional mobility piece.”

The alliance recently launched its first virtual course exchanges between the universities in public health postgraduate degrees, and piloted its first offering of postgraduate courses through its Online Course Exchange platform.

“Through this virtual international exchange, students gain exposure to different teaching methodologies, cultural contexts, and global perspectives,” noted a spokesperson from ASU.

“Students further benefit from the diversity of course offerings available through the alliance, the opportunity to work on virtual global teams, and the international experience needed to be competitive in a global and multicultural workforce.”

“Students gain exposure to different teaching methodologies, cultural contexts, and global perspectives”

Courses on offer so far include a Master of History and Master of Engineering offered by ASU and a Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence from UNSW, with more to be added from next year.

Meanwhile, the alliance is currently in the process of launching the first of its tri-continental degree programmes: an undergraduate course in international public health and a dual master’s degree programmes in engineering, cybersecurity and sustainability.

It is also working on the development of nanodegrees in a variety of fields for the South Asian and African markets.

In developing these programmes, the universities have had to overcome a number of challenges, including fees and credit-sharing.

“[Fees are] one of the biggest challenges when you are trying to do a programme,” commented Payne, noting that the three countries have very different tuition fee structures.

The three institutions are currently developing a hybrid tuition model for their joint degrees, while in the case of those including an exchange or virtual exchange, students will pay fees to their home institution.

All three universities have been forging ahead with their internationalisation strategies in recent years, and hope that working together will help drive their global work even further.

“The PLuS Alliance is a key partnership under UNSW’s 2025 Strategy and is directly aligned to providing a global experience to our domestic and international students, by giving them access to world class education through the Alliance’s Global Learning Network,” commented Vinita Chanan, director of the PLuS Alliance at UNSW.

The project is also encapsulated by ASU’s objective to engage globally across the institution – one of eight ‘design aspirations’ that guide the university’s strategic director.

“The PLuS Alliance is an expression of this design aspiration, providing our faculty and students opportunities to engage globally on the topics of sustainability, global health, social justice, and technology and innovation,” the spokesperson said.

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