From the opening ceremony in the shadow of Canterbury’s magnificent cathedral, one sensed that the 2013 EUPRIO conference was going to be something special. And so it turned out right through to the EUPRIO Awards and gala dinner on the last night, with a smooth transition from Paolo Pomati’s Italian presidency to the first conference under the guidance of Denis Ancion, from Maastricht, in the Netherlands.
Despite the chill winds of austerity blowing across Europe and some uncertainty about the UK’s future commitment to the EU, it proved a good move to hold this year’s 25th annual conference at the University of Kent which sees itself as ‘the UK’s European university’.
UK’s European University
David Nightingale, the host university’s senior deputy vice-chancellor, went out of his way to stress his hopes for greater European higher education collaboration and gave a very warm welcome to the 240+ participants – one of the highest numbers for a EUPRIO annual conference.
As with the last conference held in England – Durham in 2003 – delegates relived some their student days, with all the conference sessions and accommodation being on campus, which greatly helped with the logistics and networking. Apart from the opening ceremony, there was one trip outside the leafy campus – a ‘crab, lobsters and burgers’ BBQ on the beach at Whitstable which even the great British weather couldn’t dampen.
EUPRIO President Denis Ancion said that despite missing out on a lobster during the beach party, he was very happy with the Kent conference which focused specially on communicating with the key internal university stakeholders – students, staff and alumni – who can, and should be, a university’s best brand ambassadors.
“Of course, I was nervous how it would work out; but I think we really touched upon one of the most important issues for higher education communicators: Involving your own communities and shifting more attention towards this area of our work while slowly reducing our traditional approach. A lot of work still needs to be done, but the conference showed that this shift is already going on in several countries. By bringing new ideas and projects together, the Canterbury conference will have a positive effect on this development. People now know how to find each other and get the help or advice when needed. Again, EUPRIO proved to be a great network organisation.”
Denis was particularly pleased that the conference attracted so many newcomers, and that the ‘informal family atmosphere’ helped first-timers and conference regulars mix and mingle so easily and exchange ideas and knowledge.
Key organiser and UK deputy Steering Committee member Martin Herrema, from the University of Kent, said: “Ever since I attended my first EUPRIO conference in Grenoble in 2007, which was a marvellous experience, I’ve wanted to bring EUPRIO back to the UK. And since Kent brands itself as the UK’s European University, we thought this would make the ideal location for the 25th EUPRIO conference.
“Everyone I spoke to said they were very pleased with the venue, the speakers & workshops and the social programme. We’d be delighted to receive more feedback which we can share with our Austrian colleagues, who are organising next year’s conference in Innsbruck, in September 2014.”
An innovation at this year’s conference was the closing session round table with representatives from European students movements looking at ‘The student experience’ in terms of higher education brand marketing.
This proved to be a major success with the Times Higher Education’s European reporter, Jack Groves, chairing an interactive session with Emanuel Alfranseder, President of the Erasmus Student Network; Daniel Stevens, the International Students’ Officer of the National Union of Students UK; and Dan Derricott, from Lincoln University and a member of the European Students’ Union (ESU) quality assurance team. He stood in for Karina Ufert, President of the ESU, whose plane was delayed from Warsaw.
Marie-Catherine Mouchot, chair of the conference advisory panel, who introduced the student round table session, said: “This year, the conference placed ever more emphasis on an exchange of ideas. First, with an interactive poster session, which enabled delegates to meet entrants to the EUPRIO Awards and vote for their preferred presentation; and then by giving a voice to our students through their European representatives which gave us a unique opportunity to better understand their motivations and share their expectations.”
Most delegates took advantage of the new poster session and chance to vote for their favourite in this year’s EUPRIO Awards, which was won by the University of Antwerp, Belgium, for ‘Turning a recruitment campaign into a National Geographic TV series’.
Second place went the University of Aarhus, Denmark, for ‘Innoside at Northside 2012 and third place went to the University of Boras in Sweden for their Gilden Bonus Scholarship.
We’ll be looking at the Awards in more detail later.
And lastly, in our tales from Canterbury, we congratulate Christine Legrand, from CPE Lyon, France, who was elected as EUPRIO’s next President. She will take over when Denis steps down after the 2014 annual conference and will serve as Vice-President during 2013-14.
Christine is the French deputy Steering Committee member and has wide experience of external and industrial relations.
We expect Christine to take EUPRIO to new heights, for she was a member of the French national hot air ballooning team for ten years. We’re assured she is a safe pair of hands if you ever have a crisis in a small basket a long way from solid ground, which may come in handy steering EUPRIO over the bumpy European higher education terrain ahead.
We’ll be talking to Christine soon to find out more of her plans when she takes over the helm after the Innsbruck conference, which takes place from 4-6 September, 2014.
We hope to see many of you there!
* Thanks to Jens Fink-Jensen from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, for the photographs from inside and outside Canterbury Cathedral.