RGU: Bringing the world to Aberdeen

Regular international travel to far flung corners of the globe isn’t something you’d normally associate with the public sector but for one university team in Aberdeen, it’s a way of life.

Jamie Hastings, Michelle Macfadyen and Jayne Butler regularly travel overseas to promote RGU and the north-east of Scotland to prospective international students.Robert Gordon University (RGU) attracts hundreds of international students to the north-east each year and with a range of courses and strong employment prospects after graduation there is constant interest from students around the world.

Regional managers Jamie Hastings (29), Michelle Macfadyen (33) and Jayne Butler (32) are members of RGU’s international team and travel extensively to fly the flag for the university and the north-east of Scotland.

Covering separate international regions, Jamie and Michelle collectively travelled more than 250,000 miles to visit 35 cities in 20 countries including Azerbaijan, Ghana, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Nigeria, USA, Thailand, and the Middle East in 2012. More than half way through 2013 the team is on target to make even more trips this year.

Jayne joined the team earlier this year and has already visited 11 countries in the Middle East, Asia and the Far East where she met with recruitment agents, partner institutes and prospective students throughout the regions.

With more than 1,200 international students from outside the EU representing over 65 different nationalities, RGU has an increasing global appeal which means Jamie, Michelle, Jayne and their colleagues are in constant demand.

Jamie is responsible for promoting RGU to prospective students in West Africa and Central Asia. He said: “Although we get to travel to different countries it involves a lot of work and our diaries are always full with meetings and events before we leave the office. We try and meet as many students as possible on each visit and regularly attend education fairs and conventions as well as visit schools, colleges and universities where people want to learn more about what the university has to offer.

“A large number of the courses and modules are attractive to international students who are keen to get in to the oil and gas industry and many foreign governments are offering fully funded scholarships so students can be trained here in order to bring new skills and experience back to their own economy."

Each year RGU’s international team carries out research to identify emerging recruiting grounds so that visits and promotional marketing materials can be targeted to encourage students who are interested in studying in the UK to apply to the university.

Michelle is responsible for recruiting students from Europe, South Asia and North America. She said: “It’s great being able to go out and see other parts of the world to recruit students but it can sometimes be a challenge to juggle that with life at home. However, we get to meet a lot of interesting people and because of the reputation RGU has and the high quality of life here it’s a very easy combination to promote to those who want to study in the UK.

“It’s interesting when you travel to so many countries as you come to realise just how many different cultures there are around the world and how they compare and contrast with each other. One of the main areas they all agree on however is a strong belief in the importance of a first-class university education.”

Over the summer Jayne spent three weeks in Hong Kong and China where she visited eight cities in 15 days to promote RGU to as large an audience as possible through education fairs and university talks.

Jayne said: “My first visit to the Far East was a fantastic experience and I was proud to fly the flag for RGU whenever I could. I travelled on my own and spent a lot of time attending different meetings with other universities and partner agencies. It was a unique experience and something I’m looking forward to travelling there again later this year.

“Different countries tend to view higher education slightly differently but a degree from RGU is particularly attractive because of our incredibly high rate of graduate employment which has recently been recognised as the best in the UK.

“The rules for international student visas have changed recently so it’s important to communicate what that means to prospective students. However, those who are able to study at the university pay fees or bring scholarship funding which brings more money into the university and significantly boosts the local economy.”

Alan McIntyre, head of international and overseas partnerships at RGU, praised his team and said it is important for the university to compete on the world stage.

He said: “Most universities look to attract international students and RGU compares very favourably with a large number of industry-recognised qualifications available. The international team is always working to promote the university and what we do shows you don’t need to work in the private sector to have a job which involves overseas travel.

“The Scottish Government is keen to promote Scotland as a global destination for higher education and by helping international students to choose to study at RGU we’re giving them the best possible start to their professional careers.”

Feature by
Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport