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Future Global Engagement at University of Reading

Paul Inman

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Paul Inman

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) Paul Inman shares more information on the future plans for global engagement at our University and the 10 strategic priorities outlined in his recent all-staff talk

I have now been in post as Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) for three months and have carried out meetings with approximately 300 staff across the University. Ironically, the pandemic and associated lockdowns have meant I have been able to quickly gain access to more opinions and experience than I would have been able to leverage in ‘normal' times. The conversations have been open, candid and respectful. I have been met with a generous warm welcome and everyone has shared a genuine desire to contribute positively to improving the global engagement of the University.

Because I entered the University under cover of a global pandemic, I have appeared like a stranger entering ‘the walled city' of the University with both news of life outside and a desire to understand all about ‘the Reading Way'. In one of my previous careers as a documentary filmmaker and television producer I spent a great deal of time framing life stories and retelling institutional narratives. It's meant that I have learnt how to focus conversations on the art of the possible. To this end, I asked staff to visualise what they would wish the University to look like in 2026 - the year of our centenary - after any strategies and action plans have been written and proposed programmes of work successfully enacted.

In the 2020-2026 University Strategy, there is a desire to transform people's lives through the excellence of our education and research. The strategy views the University's purpose through the lens of its connections with the world, and between the members of its community. The obligation, steered by values and principles, is not self-aggrandisement, but a desire for the betterment of others. There is a shared vision of a globally connected university, and a desire to track the evidence of this global engagement against the comprehensive measures featured in the recently launched Education Insight Global Engagement Index. Staff exuded a confidence about the University retaining its place within the upper quartile of the World University Rankings and being similarly placed for International Outlook in the Times Higher Education university league table.

To improve on this global standing, I believe that any future internationalisation agenda must encompass three pillars of activity:

  • Increasing international student recruitment.
  • Increasing programme delivery overseas through partnerships and joint ventures.
  • Building the global brand of the University by leading with the University's research, ranking and reputation.

The foundations supporting these core pillars of activity include the importance of enhancing the learning experiences of students, particularly with global engagement and study-related mobility, and developing staff capability and capacity.

The University in 2026 needs to be focused on preparing students - home and international - for global citizenship. Students will increasingly expect to hone the skills, experience and outlook that will allow them to succeed in their future careers irrespective of subject or mode of study.

I share my views on how we go about doing this in my think piece Future Global Engagement at the University of Reading - which you may like to read (University log-in required).

Some of the ideas outlined in my think piece were also discussed at the all-staff briefing last week, a video recording of which is provided below:

You can also watch the video directly in Microsoft Streams

Colleagues attending the session has asked that I share the 10 strategic priorities that I outlined. The priorities are:

Ten Strategic Priorities:


  1. Building potential in our top performing academic units by investing in excellence. Concentrating resource on the areas of the University with most potential to impact on the global standing of the University. Looking at what we do well and building investment in those areas.
  2. Development of a range of professionally focused postgraduate taught programmes (PGT) with employability at their heart. PGT is the broken link in our student recruitment pipeline. International students tell us they want to study for a quality UK qualification to improve their employment prospects.
  3. The development of a scaled-up approach to International Foundation Programme (IFP) provision on campus and overseas with partners. All universities which recruit healthily globally have established Year Zero pipeline provision.
  4. Move to country focused student recruitment strategies and delivery plans and establishment of Country Groups to bring together university researchers and professional staff who are already working in particular priority countries (or parts of countries). The University, for instance, is very light on recruitment from South Asia (India and Sri Lanka), a real blind spot for the University.
  5. A review of the balance of UK staff and in-country staff in the University's Global Recruitment and Partnerships offices with a view to opening offices in key overseas regions. These offices could manage relationships with agents, help us process applications and manage international mobility of staff and students.
  6. Launching of marketing and branding campaigns using the University's world-leading research reputation as the hook and improve greatly the international focus and appropriateness of our promotional texts. Marketing spend should be focused on the programmes which offer us the best chances of recruitment. These campaigns should acknowledge the power of a university being able to connect with its alumni worldwide.
  7. Further investment in a Global Partnerships Office. We've seen what can be achieved with the NUIST partnership in China. We need similar strategic partnerships with universities and businesses in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe (probably Southern Europe). The University should also make it a priority to develop an Africa Strategy which acknowledges that the first half of the 21st C will see a huge growth in demand for HE in Africa.
  8. Launching of a number of offshore transnational (TNE) partnership hubs. One of these hubs should be located on University of Reading campus in Malaysia (RUMAL), to draw in students from the wider South-East Asia region and also offer University of Reading students uncomplicated mobility and progression transfer to the UK campus.
  9. Development of a menu of branded university-wide Global Engagement initiatives which are clearly promoted and managed by ISLI (in conjunction with other academic Schools and professional services). These could include an Employability programme for international students, a Global Leaders programme, and an Outward Mobility programme. All these types of initiative are attractive in the international market and can facilitate differentiation from competitors.
  10. Development of distance and/or blended learning programmes, which build on the experiences of delivering learning during the pandemic. There is obviously potential here as one of our free FutureLearn online programmes has 300,000 registered students. Some of our competitors are now developing fully online award-bearing programmes of study.


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