Demonstrating and delivering value
The conference opened with Professor G Q Max Lu, President and Vice Chancellor at the University of Surrey, sharing his outlook of the UK as a destination for international students.
He highlighted the difficulties the current political landscape is posing for universities, but says he remains 'optimistic for the future'. He put forward two key questions for delegates to consider during the day: how can the UK demonstrate its value as a study destination? And: how can UK universities ensure they are delivering value and a world-class experience for international students?
The conference included presentations, panel discussions as well as workshops that allowed more interaction and discussion between delegates. Speakers drew on previous successful experiences to share with delegates including an insight into Edinburgh University Student's Association's global buddies scheme.
The importance of communication was a regular theme throughout the day. Speakers offered advice on how to communicate better with international students before arriving at their study destination. Emphasis was placed on the need to listen to students and learn from their comments to improve the study experience. It was also recommended that universities could have better synergy with external agencies such as the British Council to foster partnerships that would help support students when they return home. Eluned Jones, Director of Student Employability at the University of Birmingham, suggested relationships with external agencies should be extended to include careers services to help with international student employability.
The event ended with a panel discussing best practice approaches to transnational education. As there are now twice as many students studying on UK university courses outside the UK as there are international students studying UK degree programmes inside the UK, there is huge potential for the UK higher education sector.
The large increase in transnational education creates several dilemmas for university staff to ensure consistency and that students have the best quality of experience. The panel said that digital communications and the use of chatrooms are proving a helpful resource to connect students to one another and offer them support.
International students add to the diversity at UK university campuses. They enrich the experience for home students and university staff alike by providing a global perspective. The overarching message from the day was that UK universities should be proud of the experience offered to international students, but, during a time of radical change they mustn't get complacent.
The sector is collectively responsible for ensuring international students are made to feel welcome and are made to feel safe so that the UK can continue to thrive as a study destination.
Tweets from the day can be found via Storify here.
On 14 December, UUKi is hosting a seminar to discuss effective approaches to improve the international student experience. The day will highlight case studies, provide examples of best practice and successful strategies to help delegates gain the knowledge they need to make improvements in their institutions. Take a look at the website and book your ticket.