Celebrating Talent – At BU and Beyond

When I reflect over what has happened over the past two months since I wrote the last post, it’s amazing at just how much change can happen in such a short time! These past two months have been incredibly eventful for the world and for BU.


As one Journey Ends….

It was such a shame this year that for the first time in many years, I had to miss our students’ graduation ceremonies in November (more on why later…). I always find graduation celebrations a good reminder of how our students may be ending one journey but are starting another at the same time – stepping out into an increasingly international world with so much ahead of them. So although I couldn’t be there in person, I want to send out my heartfelt congratulations to all our BU graduates!


The Last of the Autumn Statements

Of course, one of the first things to mention is the announcement of the Autumn Statement two weeks ago, which this year was of particular significance being the first after the EU Referendum. It was great to see science and R&D being substantially invested in. What better opportunity for the UK HE sector to be lead players in the forthcoming Industrial Strategy, which pledges to support business and academic collaboration.

Of course, there is always a question over how these activities will take shape, which is why we must continue as a sector to make sure that we play a central role in these new agendas.


The Bright Lights of India

I miss my Indian home particularly during the months of October and November as I rarely, if ever, can get back to India for Diwali, with it falling smack-bang at the beginning of term here in the UK! However, this year I did find myself in India catching the very tail end of Diwali festivities as I joined the UK’s ministerial delegation to India.

Along with around 30 of my colleagues from other UK HEIs, we joined the Prime Minister the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox MP, Minister of State for Trade and Investment Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, and Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP on a week-long visit to India.

As I wrote recently elsewhere, whilst only a year has passed since the last delegation to India, much has changed worldwide within the political landscape, and those changes were clearly reflected in the objectives and impact of the delegation. I know I wasn’t alone amongst my HEI contemporaries in recognising the potential for UK HEIs to work alongside India in tackling its substantial skills challenge; specifically, the massive growth of India’s middles classes which offers great opportunities for strong, long-lasting partnerships between India and the UK. This point was also highlighted by Jo Johnson, who added that the future of science and innovation depends on collaboration and India continues to be a vital science partner for the UK. The extension to the very successful Newton Fund, with the announcement of new research programmes worth £80 million, provides further evidence of this commitment. More highlights of the week are featured in our Storify.


Global Talent

As those who follow these posts will appreciate, I am passionate about nurturing and creating Global Talent. This term at BU, , we launched our innovative Global Talent Programme, which has been designed to help all of our students develop and evidence the attributes they need to succeed in today’s global workplace.

I am also delighted to announce that our work on Global Talent has recently been awarded two grants from the HEFCE Catalyst Fund, which will enable us to develop and expand this programme further.


Recognising the Value of International Students

When I travel back to India, it is a reminder of my own journey to the UK and through the UK HE system, and the many ways in which I have benefitted from that experience, both personally and professionally. I like to think that I have also, in my own small way, given back to the UK as a result. Of course on a personal level and reflecting back on my own journey, I do feel quite strongly about the Government’s resistance to remove international students from the immigration figures. The debate has continued for some time now and many of us in the HE sector, as well as other industries, continue to support the value and contribution of international students to the UK. It is particularly uplifting to know that a majority of Britons say they do not view international students as immigrants nor do they want to see student numbers decline.  We know that there is a healthy dose of public support for international students demonstrated in previous polls, and that MPs are taking that message back to the Home Secretary. International students are so vital to our culture and economy, and now that it has been shown only a tiny margin of 1% actually ‘overstay’ their visa, the case may get stronger.

However, today more than ever, it feels that we really need to stand up daily to let the world know how proud we are of our international communities. Many of us in UK HE have been vocal, either institutionally or collectively, in letting our international students know and feel that they are welcome here with us, and that talent works better together! A number of campaigns backed by UK HE bodies, the most notable being #WeAreInternational, have launched to highlight this message and I was absolutely delighted to see the Government announcement on the 11th October confirming that EU students applying for university places in the 2017 to 2018 academic year ‘will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants – and will be for the duration of their course’. Great news! It was also fantastic to see the Government’s announcement that EU nationals remain eligible for postgraduate support from our UK Research Councils.


Be You, Be Global

We had our very first BU Be Global (#BUBGlobal) International Opportunities Festival at the end of October which celebrated global talent by opening up a host of global opportunities to our students. The day offered students a chance to explore a great range of study and work abroad opportunities aimed at enhancing their employability and helping them take that first step towards developing a global outlook. I was thrilled to see students engage with a whole host of colleagues from the British Council, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Destination India, China and ASEAN, European Society and SUBU RAG International Volunteering. It was also a full house in the lecture theatre, with the event also live-streamed to our partner universities in Europe and the US. The session included a unique video link with BU students currently on study exchange at the University of Central Florida, catching them quite early in the morning their time, but still enthusiastic! A big thank you to them! Above all, our Global Mobility mailbox is now packed with student applications!


Celebrating BU Staff Talent

Also in October, the Vice-Chancellor and I held our monthly Global BU Walks, where we get the pleasure of informally meeting colleagues involved in global engagement activities ranging from research projects to student mobility programmes. It’s a brilliant opportunity to learn more about projects from colleagues in their own space, and this month we met Dr Hilary Stepien in the Faculty of Media and Communication, Pippa Gillingham in the Faculty of Science and Technology and Dr Jeffrey Bray in the Faculty of Management.   We also had the chance to meet with the founder and Director of Crowd – a local digital agency that takes a number of students on placement each year and who have also taken on a number of BU graduates over the last four years.


Also in the News

In November, we also saw new opportunities for HE open-up as the Government published their Guidance to Apprenticeship funding. HEFCE has released the names of the eighteen successful projects aimed to develop new degree apprenticeships for students starting next academic year, which is part of the Government’s target to increase the number of apprenticeships by 3 million in the next 4 years. We know that this reform was largely due to the struggle that young people had in making the transition from Higher Education into work; another reason why our new Global Talent Programme is so important to us at BU.

There are so many changes on the horizon with the Higher Education and Research Bill continuing to make its way through Parliament and the #NewDHLE. So, lots happening as ever and lots more to come!


All there is left for me to do now is to send everyone my very best wishes for this festive season and I look forward to seeing what 2017 brings!

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