Universities should not underestimate the value of international alumni in advancing the purpose and agenda of global universities, contributing to universities’ internationalisation objectives such as corporate affiliations, partnerships and student recruitment.
Strategic fundraising, which was the purpose of a recent CASE Europeconference, is certainly one university agenda that global alumni can help with, but various leaders in the field counselled for a wider appreciation of the value of alumni beyond financial support of an institution.
“One of the best things about my job is meeting alumni”
Nick Miles, pro vice chancellor for advancement at University of Nottingham, told delegates of the significant engagement and motivation of alumni from the Chinese branch campus of Nottingham, UNNC in Ningbo, where he was provost and CEO for five years.
“What was stunning were the students,” he shared. “They were self-starting, they were proud to be a part of that university and actually what you found was student societies were doing things long before the alumni office was engaged.”
Miles gave an example of an alumni network in New York that was a tangible asset to UNNC’s recruitment initiatives.
He also spoke of the value of involving parents when considering recruitment plans, because Chinese parents were invariably energised by the opportunities the university campus afforded their children.
Joanna Newman, vice principal international at King’s College London, echoed Miles’ comments and advised a “light touch” engagement level with international alumni networks, which were dynamic and motivated. “And when you do an event for them, do it well!”
“One of the best things about my job is meeting alumni,” she said, underlining that alumni “also open doors for us, help mentor younger alumni”.
She underlined that KCL’s new international strategy meant she took time to consider how the university’s global footprint, and alumni might help leverage opportunities for separate divisions concerned with external relations, major gifts, recruitment, marketing, fundraising and student services.
A delegate from University of Brighton in the audience added that her own experience was of overseas alumni that were far more engaged than a domestic cohort.
When asked if having an offshore office presence or “boots on the ground” was an asset, Newman asserted that KCL regional offices did do much more than just recruitment – focusing on partnerships and alumni too – which has helped support growing alumni networks in India or Brazil, for example.
But at fellow London institution, Imperial College, Sarah Porter Waterbury said having satellite offices was not the established practice at Imperial. However, she underlined the importance of frequent travel to countries and deep relationships with partners or contacts who assist with “the lie of the land, cultural differences”.
This might be academics or even parents of student alumni, she said. “You need get to know those people, put it into your travel budget, just commit.”