CASE Universities Marketing Forum – there’s no going back now
By Dan Beynon
This morning was the 13th CASE Universities Marketing Forum weekly teleconference. It seems a lifetime ago that Justin Cole, Mark Garratt and I made plans to build on the UMF / SMRS / The Know partnership and stage these weekly get togethers to enable marketing leaders at UK Universities to come together and support one another through this uniquely challenging period.
In that time, we have seen more than 100 colleagues join the calls from institutions all over the UK and more recently internationally. The sessions have involved excellent and insightful updates from Conor Ryan and Emma Maskell from the OFS, Alistair Jarvis, Nicky Old, Michael Thompson and colleagues from Universities UK, Clare Marchant from UCAS, Matt Durnin from The British Council, Mark Leach from Wonkhe, Andrew Hargreaves from dataHE, Mary Curnock Cook and Ria O’Sullivan from The Student Room. Paul Humphreys from Student Crowd is joining next week with some bespoke UMF research on attitudes to student accommodation. A big thank you to all our guest speakers.
This morning we had an earlier start (or later evening for some!) at 8am as we held our second session with colleagues joining us from universities in Australia and New Zealand. We heard from Angelo Kourtis, Vice President (People and Advancement) at Western Sydney University, Rachel Sandison, Vice Principal, External Relations at University of Glasgow, Tere McGonagle-Daly, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Students, Alumni and Global Engagement, Massey University, New Zealand and Helen Pennack, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at University of Nottingham. They shared their experiences of the pandemic from their different perspectives. It was fascinating to hear how Higher Education has responded to this challenge globally and for those in the southern hemisphere the crisis arrived at a very different stage in the academic cycle to here in the UK.
What is clear is that this situation has forced us all to accelerate our work to move learning experiences for current students (and engagements with prospective students) online in time periods that were simply unimaginable previously. There was a common acknowledgement that there is now no going back. Angelo made a fantastic point that WSU are working hard to make sure they ‘don’t confuse recovery with restoration’ explaining that the situation has really helped them achieve a shift in culture in which they have been able to sort the valuable stuff from the unnecessary. All the speakers talked about the focus on putting their people first, wellbeing and new, more flexible approaches to working and scenario planning. There above all a primary common purpose across all institutions aimed at delivering the best and safest student experience and this is sometimes lost in the frequent demands for absolute certainty in what is still a hugely uncertain situation.
These UMF sessions have been so valuable and just today some of the feedback in the chat included ‘Thank you to all for arranging these sessions. They are a great source of information and inspiration’; ‘Thank you - fantastic start to the day and ever so interesting and insightful’ and ‘This has been fantastic, thanks all for sharing your thoughts and experience, looking forward to more meetings like this one in the future.’
It’s been a brilliant project to be involved with and I’m certain it will impact significantly on UMF activities in the future and I know it has helped many institutions and individuals find their way through this period of uncertainty. Thanks to everyone who has been engaging with and attending the sessions and in particular thanks to Justin Cole, Mark Garratt, Tricia King and also to the team at CASE - Bruce Bernstein, Rich Nicholl, Paula O’Neill and Emily Jeffrey. See you next week!