Welcoming the world to London

Ibrahim El Mayet reports on a useful exchange of ideas and experiences at the 2017 Institutions' Symposium
Participants at the 2017 Institutions Symposium
Participants at the 2017 Institutions' Symposium
The 2017 Symposium presented the perfect chance to share operational updates, exchange ideas and experiences, and explore new opportunities

Providing a break from the usual business of taking the University of London to the world, the Teaching Institutions' Symposium was a wonderful opportunity to welcome the world, in the form of 55 of our teaching centres from 27 countries, to London.

With the theme of ‘A culture of excellence: embracing change and challenges’, the 2017 Symposium presented the perfect chance to share operational updates, exchange ideas and experiences, and explore new opportunities.

Following the Vice-Chancellor’s welcome and keynote addresses, a range of topics focusing on our future direction were covered, from branding to programme development, and from student experience to employability.

Addressing a packed room, Dr Mary Stiasny and Craig O’Callaghan unveiled work currently underway to review our name and branding, as well as the Teaching Institutions Recognition Framework. Inviting institutions to respond, Craig stressed that these will be positive changes and ‘not change for change’s sake’.

As part of a full schedule, Programme Directors led sessions on Economics, Management, Finance and the Social Sciences (a full afternoon at LSE), Computing, Postgraduate Laws, IFP and more. Mike Winter held a session on parallel degree programmes, which are likely to be rolled out more widely in the future.

In a session titled ‘Students of Today, Alumni of Tomorrow’, Jo Harris introduced our new Business Observation Placements. The first of these schemes is already underway with the Bombay Stock Exchange. Providing valuable opportunities for our recent alumni, as well as deepening our relationships with employers, we anticipate more to come.

"With close to 70 per cent of our students at undergraduate level opting to study at a recognised centre, maintaining and developing these relationships remains at the heart of our strategy."

There was also an update on new programme developments from Mike Kerrison, including the MSc in Professional Accountancy in collaboration with UCL, the Global MBA in collaboration with Queen Mary, and MOOCs. The Global MBA welcomes its first cohort of students this month.

A lot of important issues were raised by Teaching Institutions, including equivalence in India, recognition lists in Pakistan, the level of support they receive, and possible impacts of changes to the VLE and programme delivery. With close to 70 per cent of our students at undergraduate level opting to study at a recognised centre, showing better retention and achieving better grades as a result, maintaining and developing these relationships remains at the heart of our strategy.

"The reception ... was made extra special by the screening of a compilation of short videos produced by the Teaching Institutions." 

For many attendees, the highlight of the two-day programme was the reception. A great opportunity to network, it was made extra special by the screening of a compilation of short videos produced by the Teaching Institutions. An inspired initiative, it was a delightful visual representation. From the rousing music of the Russian offering, to the youthful exuberance on show from Zhongshan, it provided an insight into the character of the institutions as well as a look at their facilities, in often quite sunny settings. The overall effect was fantastic and left a lasting impression.

Many staff across the International Programmes and member institutions participated, but two of the big heroes of the story were Yuchun Chiang and Hayley-Anne Hawkes. For both this was a final act. Yuchun has moved on to take up a new role at King’s College London, while Hayley has moved up to take on a new role within the Institutions team. We wish them both well.

The consensus was that this was by far the best symposium yet. The bar has been set high for the newly restructured Institutions team which welcomes two new members. We’ll see what they can do for the next symposium, no pressure!