Location, location, location

Rhonda Olsen explains why getting relocation right is the key to keeping UK universities competitive

With more financial pressures on universities than ever before, attracting students has never been more important. Rhonda Olsen group director and global mobility specialist at international relocation company, Robinsons, examines the key role relocation services play when it comes to attracting the world’s best academic talent to UK universities.

There is a global revolution happening in education as fast-expanding private provision offers access to millions of new students. Today, more than 30% of global higher education enrolment is private, according to Trends in Global Higher Education, placing increasing pressure on traditional Universities and an unprecedented global war for academic talent.

Students, now more than ever, look critically at where they choose to continue their education, based on institution rankings which relate directly to where their subject and importantly, their academic specialist of choice is based. Consequently, the long-term success, or failure of some middle ranking Universities depend on recruitment success.

For a university, this means recruiting the very best academic talent is now a priority, and in today’s globalised economy, cherry picking the best in the world is required in order to remain competitive. However, with this approach comes a new level of HR complexity, not least visa compliance and international regulatory compliance.

Robust relocation policy

To this end, universities now require a robust relocation process in order to make a role as appealing as possible to prospective candidates. Like it or not, the days of simply advertising for a role and hoping the applications come flooding in are long-gone, and Relocation policy now has a major impact on employee experience, and can be the deciding factor for an academic accepting a post.

Because relocation budgets vary from department to department, even in the same university, higher education establishments are faced with a non-level playing field, meaning an innovative and forward-thinking approach is essential.

Relocation linked to HR

As a starting point, universities should ensure their relocation offering is closely linking their existing HR processes. That means a relocation advisor – either internal or external – seamlessly acting as part of the recruitment team during initial interviews and recruitment consultations. Their role will be to offer detailed information to candidates on living in the location, local lifestyle issues and recreation, as well as partner and child support issues. It is also worth providing all the information in an easy-to-use online guide post-interview. This approach will ensure a significant value-add for the prospective candidate, making the role, and prospect of a move, as appealing as possible.

Relocation allowances

Relocation allowances are also an important factor Universities need to consider. Clearly the level of investment depends on overall budgets. However, at the top end of this, packages should be tailored towards the recruit’s individual requirements, and scaled according to seniority, delivered how they need it – on the move ‘virtually’ or over a combination of days. However, some departments simply cannot afford relocation allowances but still have a need to recruit the best talent. If this is the case, then value can still be added to the recruit, for example, through an online guide to living and working in their location, covering details such as NI & bank account set-up, TV/Internet/mobile phone/utilities set-up, police and medical registration advice and renting in the UK guidance. A relocation provider should be able to offer this service.

Another value-add universities can consider providing is supporting new recruits post-appointment. This can be in response to a number of factors, including wealth management changes, for example as staff purchase property and vehicles. The purpose of this approach is to offer support with any further permanent living requirements and should be offered on a regular basis over a six-month period. Again, this is a service that your relocation specialist can help you with.

By providing these innovative solutions, universities can take giant leaps in achieving their recruitment and relocation goals, in turn increasing their appeal as an attractive place to work for international talent. While many factors are at play, those Universities failing to take relocation seriously could end up compromising their ability to attract the very best talent.

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