Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and University of Nottingham’s faculty of engineering have worked together as research partners for nearly 10 years. To date, more than 30 faculty and 35 students from Virginia Tech and Nottingham have worked together.

On Tuesday, the leaders of those universities – Virginia Tech’s Tim Sands and University of Nottingham’s Sir David Greenaway – praised the partnership and held it up as model for further collaboration.

“From our standpoint it’s been a great success and the reason for that success is because it actually started from the bottom up,” not from the presidential level, said Greenaway, vice chancellor of the University of Nottingham. “It was our leaders in engineering who saw the potential of making the combination of two units a lot stronger than they are independently.”

“As we’ve grown to know each other better in this last decade we have discovered that there are these touchpoints — there’s a similar kind of heritage,” he said, noting Virginia Tech’s role as a land-grant institution and Nottingham’s role a great civic institution in the United Kingdom.

“It’s been a great success,” Greenaway said. “I think it provides a platform for further partnership.”

President Sands and Vice Chancellor Greenaway held a public conversation Tuesday at the Moss Arts Center as part of the Beyond Boundaries Presidential Lecture Series, which invites thought leaders to inspire disruptive and transformational approaches to thinking globally and the changing landscape of higher education.

Sands said the two universities share common approaches and philosophies, including an emphasis on partnerships and the commitment to the public good.

“We understand that we can’t do it alone,” Sands said. “Part of our strengths comes from the partners that we attract, not only in higher education but across the sectors.”

Greenaway, appointed the sixth vice chancellor of the University of Nottingham in 2008, leads one of the United Kingdom’s largest comprehensive, research-intensive universities. In addition to four campuses and three teaching hospitals in the East Midlands, Nottingham has campuses in China and Malaysia.

Greenaway said he’s pleased with the growth of the campuses in China and Malaysia — citing the number and quality of students and the development of research programs — but noted that they are still evolving.

“We are gaining confidence,” he said, but stressed that it requires a long-term investment in order to get long-term value.

The vice chancellor said it’s difficult to describe what University of Nottingham will be like in 30 years.

“That’s a really tough one,” he said.

He anticipates a more globalized higher-education system, with more diverse students who are more mobile in moving around the globe.

“Place will still be important,” he said.

Sands and Greenaway agreed that traditional college campuses won’t go away, even as technology continue to change education.

“There are these communities — like Virginia Tech, like the Universtiy of Nottingham — that help transform individuals,” said Greenaway.

“It’s not just during classes, it’s during the 24-hour experience they have living on campus," said Virginia Tech’s Sands.

The two leaders talked about the role rankings play in higher education.

Greenaway, a professor of economics who received a knighthood for services to higher education, said his university tends to put more stock in international rankings than others.

“All rankings have imperfections,” he said, but he feels the global rankings use metrics that are more meaningful.

“They matter. We pay attention but make sure our university strategy is not simply driven by them — rather it’s driven by enhancing quality in all that we do.”

Envisioning Virginia Tech – Beyond Boundaries is an exercise in imagining a vision for Virginia Tech a generation into the future.

Beyond Boundaries engages the university-wide community in a long-range visioning process, charting a course to position Virginia Tech as a top-100 global university while addressing the challenges and opportunities in the changing landscape of higher education.