The 50th anniversary conference of UKCISA — the UK Council for International Student Affairs — took place in Edinburgh on the 27-29 June this year. Over the last fifty years, more than five million international students have come to study in the UK, and with a conference theme of #ChangingLivesForGood, the programme included a wide variety of sessions celebrating how international study can transform the lives of both international and domestic students, and the wider community, as well as showcasing the work taking place at UK universities to help international students to fulfill their potential. Here are just a few of our highlights over the three days.
On the first day of the conference, we heard from Louise Staunton (International Student Experience and Global Office Manager, Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Cheryl Rounsaville (Global Student Experience Manager, Nottingham Trent University) on how offering a ‘Global Lounge’ can enhance the student experience.
Cheryl described how NTU take a whole university approach when developing and delivering their support for international students, including an annual Global Week that aims to educate staff and students on different cultures and global issues, with over 100 stalls, events and workshops: “The idea is that it should be informative and fun. This is beneficial for staff too, helping them to better understand the background of the students they are working with. It can also help all of our students to be better prepared for working in an international labour market. We plan to repeat the event in January to make our new international students feel welcome.”
Throughout the academic year, including during the summer holidays, two Global Lounges are open until 7pm each day, giving students a place to relax and socialise, outside of lectures. Free refreshments are on offer, and if students want to chat about any issues or concerns, permanent members of staff are on hand, in addition to student volunteers.
Popular events include the free weekly Global Lunch which is usually attended by 150-200 students, providing the opportunity for domestic and international students to sit down and talk together. Students that are fluent in more than one language can volunteer in the Language Cafe, also held in the Global Lounges, offering a way for students to mix, make friends and learn something new. Cheryl explained that all activities are widely promoted to students through dedicated social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: “Students are encouraged to sign up to these accounts during Welcome Week to ensure they are well aware of what’s on offer.”
Crucially, all student volunteers are rewarded for their efforts with a certificate that they can show an employer, and a record of their contribution is included on their Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).