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COVID-19: an opportunity to rethink global cooperation in higher education and research
  1. Simone Buitendijk1,
  2. Helen Ward1,
  3. Gideon Shimshon1,
  4. Amir H Sam1,
  5. Dhananjaya Sharma2,
  6. Matthew Harris3
  1. 1Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2Government NCSB Medical College, Jabalpur, India
  3. 3Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matthew Harris; m.harris{at}imperial.ac.uk

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Summary box

  • The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic presents significant challenges for higher education and clinical training, normally based on face-to-face interaction, and an opportunity to improve international cooperation.

  • We propose three strategies to ensure that, when we emerge from this crisis, global cooperation in higher education and research is the norm: move to online, digital learning; enhanced networks with institutions from the Global South; and a reformed funding and reward structure.

  • Tackling global issues collaboratively, starting with COVID-19, we will be so much better placed to solve the many issues, known and unknown, that our planet will undoubtedly face in decades to come, including the next pandemic.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic is many terrible things, but it is also acting as a pilot study in global collaboration in several sectors. Many international corporations are working together rather than competing with each other to produce vaccines. There is large-scale exchange of medical and public health data and possible solutions using digital and online tools. A number of industries have pivoted their products and business models to respond to the pandemic.1 2 This is also an opportunity to challenge the model of competition between universities and transcend the traditional boundaries of knowledge production, dissemination and consumption. In a time like this we need universities more than ever as centres of research, learning and global good. However, according to UNESCO, most governments have temporarily closed educational institutions to contain the spread of COVID-19, impacting about 91% of students globally,3 and many universities are facing an uncertain future and financial losses because of a decline in numbers of fee-paying overseas students seeking to come to their campuses.4 While many universities have been responsive and agile in developing remote learning during the crisis, simply putting traditional in-classroom …

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