As EUPRIO makes the call for specific projects to be tackled by its second Mobility Programme, Nic Mitchell looks back at the first programme – which saw three very different international universities pool their ideas to improve the way they communicate with international students and staff.
The EUPRIO Mobility Programme, or EMP, encourages members to network and share best practice by working across European borders to solve specific real-life communication problems and develop case studies, available as a member-only resource on our website intranet.
The participants in the pilot programme were Xander Bronkhorst, a journalist and member of the editorial team producing Utrecht University’s independent online Digital University Paper – DUB – and another Dutch representative, Caroline de Vries, senior communications advisor at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. They were joined by Philip Graham, Head of Internal Communications at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Philip gave me a flavour of how they approached the EMP in an interview for EUPRIO’s YouTube channel in which we discussed the need to recognise the special needs of international students at European universities and the impact of Brexit for UK higher education.
Language and tone
The full report runs to 19 pages and can be accessed by logging onto the EUPRIO intranet, see top right corner of the EUPRIO homepage.
Among the findings was the need for universities to speak the same language as their international students in formal and informal communications outside the classroom.
While not a problem for Edinburgh, where English is the only language used, Utrecht and NHL in the Netherlands agreed this could be a big issue for international students attracted by English-language taught degrees who don’t speak Dutch.
International students – and staff – can feel isolated if important information, emails and online discussions are only available in Dutch, or the native language where they are studying, and if the language suddenly switches to the local tongue in general meetings.
As Xander says in the EMP report it is not an easy issue to tackle, even in the Netherlands where English is widely spoken, and one of the case studies looks at what is being done with Utrecht’s DUB newsletter, where getting the journalistic tone right, and not just using correct formal English in some of the translated stories, is important for international readers.
Acknowledge the challenges
In Edinburgh, where 42% of the student population of nearly 40,000 are international, the Edinburgh Global website has a major focus on providing support for international students and applicants, as well as staff.
The EMP recognised the university’s “impressive effort to showcase diversity” and found good practice, particularly with Edinburgh’s School of Veterinary Sciences’ contribution to the ‘We’re listening’ campaign, which responds to student feedback and helps integrate cultural diversity across the university.
However, it suggested the Edinburgh Global website could include content that “acknowledges internationalisation comes with some challenges, rather than only show success”, adding: “Discussing more serious matters could add credibility.”
The pilot EUPRIO Mobility Programme also looked at NHL Stenden, a recently merged university with a network of campuses in different regions of the Netherlands and overseas in Qatar, South Africa, Thailand and Bali.
Not surprisingly, internationalisation is one of its priorities and the report looks at how it is actively using bi-lingual communications in English and Dutch to widen international experiences both at home and abroad, increase mobility and internationalise curricula.
To cater for an ever-widening range of students, NHL Stenden is also developing separate areas on its website in Chinese and German.
The EMP report also stressed the importance of communicating effectively with international students before they arrive on campus and to build on those communications with existing students and staff.
The three participants visited each other’s universities with some financial support from EUPRIO helping to make the visits possible and talked to communication teams and international students.
In the recommendations, the report said that future EMP projects might benefit from having participants with similar backgrounds and similar problems that need tackling as participants in the pilot programme had different needs and interests.
Fostering international collaboration
Ludo Koks, public affairs manager at Utrecht University, said: “I was very enthusiastic when I first heard about this EUPRIO initiative and delighted that Utrecht University’s proposal for the first project was accepted.
“In my opinion the EMP is an excellent way to foster true, concrete, practical international collaboration between individual EUPRIO members. Next to our wonderful conference, it gives real added value to EUPRIO members on their to road to internationalisation.
“I’d also like to thank Philip Graham for being an inspiring ambassador for the programme, both during the project as well as in his presentation at the EUPRIO conference in Sevilla.
“The three participants worked very well together and I recommend their report to all who want to improve communications with international students.”
Proposals please for second programme
Paola Claudia Scioli, EUPRIO’s development manager, said: “We’re looking forward to receiving proposals for other communication challenges that could benefit in the second EUPRIO Mobility Programme by 29 October 2018, with later deadlines to submit partners and approval for the selected project. Details can be found on the Intranet, where all the forms can be downloaded.
“EUPRIO refunds travel and accommodation costs up to a maximum of 750 € per participant in the selected project group to help fund visits to other universities by up to four people. They (or their university) must have been members of EUPRIO for three years or more to take part. See the Intranet for the details and rules for taking part in the programme”.
Main photo from left to right, Caroline de Vries, Xander Bronkhorst and Philip Graham