Expanding Coventry University’s global footprint

Wednesday 11 December 2019

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For Professor Mohamed Loutfi, helping universities to operate as responsible and responsive global citizens is a passion that defines his career in higher education.

He joined Coventry University in May 2019 as the Vice-Chancellor’s special envoy, tasked with step change projects to expand the university’s global footprint.

An expert in systems thinking, Prof Loutfi brings to Coventry University 28 years’ experience in higher education, particularly in university leadership and management. He has previously worked as Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor for Internationalisation at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Coventry University already enjoys wide recognition and respect as a sector leader in global engagement, with over 50,000 learners from various countries around the world enrolled on its courses.

It is acknowledged nationally and internationally by both students and strategic partners for the quality and diversity of its international education experience, student mobility opportunities and international research collaborations.

Prof Loutfi’s job involves looking at innovative approaches to open up new markets and new ways of working - internally and externally - to maximise intellectual and financial returns to the University. He has a very clear view of Coventry University's role as a global citizen.

We are in Coventry but we are serving the world, and bringing the benefits of the world to Coventry as we simultaneously take Coventry to the world. In other words, it is a two-way process: bringing international dimensions in, and exposing stakeholders to external, international dimensions.

Prof. Mohamed Loutfi, Vice-Chancellor's special envoy

As such, Prof Loutfi explained, a simple hierarchical model inside the UK would not suffice to express the university’s global ambitions.

The idea of having the hub and spoke model allows us to have a presence in different areas of the world, especially areas that we have an impact in. That way, we can be closer to our society - our stakeholders and students - and be better placed to support our partners and align our activities within a region, through local knowledge and channelling the university’s links through the hub to benefit from the multiplier effect of all activities. This will in turn enhance the university’s reputation and brand awareness within the region.

Prof. Loutfi’s most recent tour of duty was with El Sewedy Education, where he was involved in the early stages of the development of The Knowledge Hub Universities, the host for Coventry University’s branch in Egypt.

The first cohort of students was enrolled in September this year on undergraduate courses across the newly formed schools of Engineering, Computing, and Design and Media. Students at The Knowledge Hub will earn the same degrees as those awarded at Coventry University’s UK campuses.

Prof Loutfi is currently working on the creation of a new hub, which will be based in Dubai and also cover the university’s international presence in the Middle East region, specifically in Morocco, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. However, the hubs that the university is creating elsewhere will not be like its branch at The Knowledge Hub in Egypt, which delivers education, Prof. Loutfi explained.

Instead, these other hubs will be an extension of the university to deliver services such as enterprise and innovation, linking with local industries, supporting our transnational education partners, supporting our alumni activities within the region, and as nodes for understanding the educational policies in the regions so that the university can be proactive instead of being reactive.

As societies across the world react to the perceived negative effects of globalisation, Prof Loutfi believes universities should respond through greater internationalisation and bring the benefits to their students and local communities. By embedding internationalisation in everything they do and actively engaging their communities, he said, universities are better equipped to eliminate the negative effects of globalisation on society.

So what would success look like to Prof Loutfi as the Vice-Chancellor’s envoy?

I’d like to establish the hubs and make sure they’re supporting the university in being more global in every aspect, whether it is enterprise and innovation, student experience, alumni activities or transnational education. Success, to me, is making sure that the hubs are successful in delivering the corporate strategic plan of the university.