I spent the first three days of this week in the lovely green (and very wet) south of Wales, in a small town called Trefforest at the University of Glamorgan. The University played host to this year’s annual BUILA conference. For those of you reading this outside the UK, BUILA is the British Universities International Liaison Association, and a great organization to be a part of if you are working in an international office at a UK university.
The annual BUILA conference is a dynamic mix of seasoned international officers, directors/heads of international offices and newcomers just starting out in the field. It’s a small conference when you compare it to the behemoth that is NAFSA – there were only 180 conference attendees this week at Glamorgan. But I like that it’s small as it gives me the chance to meet new people and really chat with them properly, as well as catch-up with old friends and colleagues. The sessions are usually practical and full of ‘take-aways’ that I can make use of once I get back to the office, as opposed to being theoretical or cerebral.
This year the conference theme was ‘In it to win it’ and looked at collaboration as a way we (as universities) can all win in internationalizing higher education. I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to speak on the plenary panel on the opening morning of the conference. I, along with colleagues, talked about working with other universities to recruit international students, as a part of a recruitment consortium. A few years ago I and a colleague from the University of East Anglia founded a consortium called ECUK which is aimed at recruiting students from North America to study at universities in the UK. We went from a group of 6 universities in 2009 to now having over 25 institutions participating. We talked about how we started the consortium, why it came about, the challenges of keeping it going and how we see it developing in the future. I hope conference attendees found it useful!
Other points of note brought up at the conference, which I’m going to pass on to colleagues in my office (and hopefully effect some change):
- The various uses of social media in recruitment, conversion, communication with and retention of international students (yes, I know this one isn’t new, but it was brought up again and again at the conference and is worth continuing to work on).
- Indonesia as an emerging market and one to keep an eye on. If you haven’t been considering Indonesia for its recruitment potential, I’d encourage you to check it out. The numbers to the UK are still quite small, but growing.
- Due to the rise in use of social media (among other things), the days of 16 weeks a year travelling abroad recruiting are coming to an end. The international officer as ‘road warrior’ is old-school, and the IO’s expertise and skills can be better used by focusing on conversion and taking advantage of digital tools, rather than standing for hours on end at overseas exhibitions.