Looking inwards, growing outwards

How the pursuit of student experience at home and abroad is a positive sum game

Since 2017 British universities have faced significant pressure by government mandate to direct themselves away from globalisation and look inwards to their local communities. But trends within the sector demonstrate that shining a spotlight on the local need not detract from exploring the apparent gloss of the international.

Sectorwide convergence on experience and wellbeing at home reflects a stronger logic that brand is built from the student not towards them.

Investing in the student, as the University of Derby’s far-reaching strategy demonstrates, requires the shifting of mindsets more than funding. Derby’s 10-step programme dissects investment in the student experience into achievable and measurable aims, from technologies and digital to graduate support. Twinning this programme, Derby’s award-winning International Student Centre demonstrates how it is bridging the gap between student experience and international recognition.

Another pioneer of the student experience is the University of Reading which has excelled in taking its status as one of the UK’s highest performing universities for student experience abroad. Located in the popular Iskandar region, the University of Reading, Malaysia (UoRM) represents its latest success in global brand building.

Celebrated for its state-of-the-art campus the project also boasts specialised social facilities which draw on the heritage of its Whiteknights Campus in the UK. Similar to Derby’s strategic focus on technology and digital, what makes Reading’s Malaysia campus that little bit extra special for its students is the investment in gadgets and gizmos as well as a robust IT infrastructure to create a digital first experience for its students and staff.

These projects have arisen as part of a larger pattern where a whole host of universities are investing in the student – Middlesex University, the University of Sussex, Northumbria University, and the University of Worcester all have initiatives in place where the student is at the centre.

Various associations such as the Office for Students and Guild HE are supporting institutions in ensuring that they are delivering the most positive and meaningful experiences possible, and you can find out more about them, and those listed above, at this year’s Higher Education Conference and Exhibition.

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