As we head into 2021, we would like to take a moment to reflect on what 2020 brought for our International Relations Team. Despite a number of international challenges, we continued to work with our students and partners throughout the year and want to share some of our key successes and how we adapted to such an unforgettable year.
With Brexit looming at the start of 2020, the International Relations Office were prepared for a turbulent and unpredictable year for our mobility and partnership activities, though we were not expecting the level of uncertainty that this year brought.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK, like many workforces across the world, the International Relations Office began to work from home. This bought a number of unavoidable technological, communications and social challenges, but the team quickly adapted. It was not our relocation to home offices that was the focus though, as there were students on mobilities who needed to return home. Our mobility team worked hard to make sure that each student was able to return home safely. One of our key team priorities is putting students at the heart of everything we do, and it was vitally important to us that each student got the support that they needed. Rockhill Tembi Focho, our International Mobility Coordinator (Outgoing and Erasmus+), was even awarded a staff award in September recognising his hard work in delivering excellent support to students.
As the year progressed and countries around the world locked down, the team continued to work hard in collaboration with our partners across the world. This year within the partnership team we have continued to nurture current partnerships, fostering new agreements, and continuing to explore international opportunities for collaboration. The team found new ways of communicating and developed new processes for agreements. Where once a physical delegation visit would have been a vital tool for networking, virtual networking has developed and provided a wider platform for collaboration. A key example of this is the AUA virtual study tour which Tracey Stenson Jukes (International Partnership Manager for Teaching and Learning) took part in, which gave insight on the Sino-British Partnerships in transnational education. Tracey and the other group members found that going virtual allowed for a larger range of meetings and interactions. A blog giving further detail can be found here.
Other key successes for the IRO from this year include:
- Welcoming a new cohort of visiting students:
At the start of the academic year in September, the mobility team welcomed 46 students to Bath. These students took part in our first ever online induction, which gave the students an introduction to the university, but also featured creative icebreaker and information sessions.
- Chartering Flights from China
Our Director of International Relations, Lily Rumsey, was a key player in the development and organisation of a charter flight service for our Chinese students to travel to the UK. This programme was developed in co-ordination with a number of other UK institutions and Hainan Airlines, who chartered flights throughout September and October, and will continue to do so in January for the second semester.
- Launch of a brand-new Partnership Newsletter
In September, we published and distributed our first ever partnership newsletter to our partners across the globe. The quarterly newsletter provides latest news and updates from the International Relations Office. To enquire about receiving this newsletter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New Staff and Development Opportunities
We welcomed two new members of staff this year to the team: Emily Brown (International Mobility Coordinator for Incoming Students) and Zoe Everson (Communications Assistant). We have also welcomed an intern, Ben Plumer, into our extended team in the Bristol and Bath Brussels Office. Two members of our team changed roles, with Amy Riddle stepping up into the Mobility Officer role, and Tracey Stenson Jukes taking on the International Partnership Manager (Teaching and Learning) role, ensuring we were fit for the future in our development of transnational educational portfolio.
There were a large number of events that had to be cancelled or postponed this year, and so we are very proud that we, with other colleagues from across the university, were able to run some of these events virtually. Each year, we support our Global Chairs to come to Bath to share their expertise through lectures and networking events, and while this did not happen in the usual way, the University facilitated virtual events in place of this. John Warner, one of our 2020-21 Global Chairs started his lecture series back in October, and it will continue through until March 2021. More information can be found here.
Throughout this time, the International Relations Team, have demonstrated resilience, creativity, and positivity to ensure that we continue to put our students and global partners at the heart of the work we deliver.
We are looking forward to continuing our internationalisation efforts in the new year.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.