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From Melbourne, Australia’s Knowledge Capital, to Destination Dublin
Can Melbourne’s dual strategies of knowledge-city development and international student focus be achieved in Dublin?
2. Dublin: building a knowledge city-region
While the Dublin city-region already plays the role of ‘Ireland’s International Gateway’, a major policy objective of Dublin City Council (DCC) is to ‘enhance global competitiveness through the development of the knowledge economy’ (Finnegan 2008: 4). This move towards a knowledge city-region has also been identified externally, by the UK’s Work Foundation, as ‘central to all relevant policy makers and economic interests’ (Jones et al. 2006: 24).
To meet its objective, DCC has devised an International Policy Framework which, through bilateral links, ‘networks of common purpose’, ‘networks of learning’, promotion and marketing of the Dublin brand, and the hosting of delegations and conferences, seeks to ‘enhance the international position and view of Dublin’ (Finnegan 2008: 4–5, 10–14). While the Policy does not elaborate further on how this objective will be achieved, it identifies collaboration and investment as its main strategies towards building a highly skilled workforce, developing the knowledge economy, and recruiting talented students and academic personnel (Finnegan 2008: 5). A major role will be played by the International Relations Advisory Group, which includes representatives from the city authorities, business community, Dublin Tourism, the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the city’s HEIs (Finnegan 2008). This approach fits neatly into the concept of the ‘triple helix’ outlined above.
In Ireland’s National Development Plan 2007–13, one of the five broad HE strategies is ‘to widen participation and increase student and graduate members at third level’ (NDP 2006: 202). Recruitment of international students is expected to play a large role in achieving this (NDP 2006). To meet the NDP goals, the government has established the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The Dublin Regional Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA) is one project which successfully secured SIF funding. The DRHEA’s principle objective is to develop ‘an internationally competitive learning region’. To this end, it will develop a strategic alliance of the region’s HEIs. Not only will this strengthen the HE sector, it will also lead to the creation of a ‘hitherto unexploited international academic “brand” with tremendous potential to contribute to the achievement of the NDP goals’. This brand, ‘Destination Dublin’, will be developed, coordinated and promoted collaboratively and will lead to recognition of Dublin as a ‘centre for world-class higher education and research’ (Dublin Institute of Technology [DIT] 2007: 13).
Internationalization is one of the DRHEA’s four strands of activity and involves six of the DRHEA’s eight HEI partners – Dublin City University, DIT, Institute of Technology Tallaght, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, and University College Dublin. By combining the resources of the partners’ international offices, the DRHEA will ‘support international student growth and enhance the international student experience’ (DIT 2007: 13). In the period 2008–11, the DRHEA envisages the following outcomes: completion of a needs analysis of international students; the establishment of the Dublin International Student Service Centre; the launch of a coordinated international marketing campaign; international scholarships/fellowships and recruitment of 100 non-EU Ph.D. students; and the establishment of overseas offices in China, India, South America and the Middle East (DIT 2007).
Like the DCC’s Advisory Group, the DRHEA’s Board includes representatives from HE, government and business, including DCC, Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation National Partnership (DIT 2007). However, while work related to each strand has commenced, the DRHEA’s board has not yet sat. In addition, there have been no concrete developments since the launch of DCC’s International Policy Framework. Given the tougher economic conditions in which both organizations must now operate, it is both timely and prudent to consider how their work might progress.