Jose Diaz de Aguilar: Why I chose to study in the UK #WeAreInternational

As part of this month’s #WeAreInternational campaign – giving international students and graduates  a platform to share their story about why they chose to study in the UK – Jose Diaz de Aguilar from the Canary Islands, Spain, tells us what attracted him to the UK and how he has found the experience.

What are you studying?

Up until June 2014, I was studying aerospace engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Currently I am the International Students’ Officer at the Sheffield Students’ Union, where I represent international students studying at the University of Sheffield.

Which country are you from?


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We are international

Today marks the launch of an exciting initiative aimed at international students and international graduates who studied in the UK. Education UK, NUS and Universities UK are joining forces on a national social media campaign to celebrate international students, giving them a platform to share their story of why they chose to study in the UK.

We know how important international students are to our university campuses, and we value the culture and wealth of knowledge they bring to the country to share with their UK counterparts. That’s why, through this campaign, we want to generate activity and conversation through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other channels using the #WeAreInternational hashtag, in order to get everyone discussing some of the incredible individual stories coming out of our universities. We want the faces of this campaign to be the international students themselves and we want them to be given a voice on this important issue. Continue reading

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On a (Third) Mission in Northamptonshire

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) are at the heart of the government’s growth agenda, and so it is crucial they work with like-minded partners to achieve their ambitious goals for the local area.

At the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP), where I am Chief Executive, we want the county to grow its economy by £4billion per year, create 32,500 jobs, build 37,000 new homes and see a further 1,600 businesses start up by 2021. The size of this ambition means that we need to work with partners who share our desire to make Northamptonshire the best place to do business, and are willing to dedicate the time, energy and resources to make this a reality. This is why I value our relationship with the University of Northampton, who are really embodying Witty’s third missionorganising their business to work effectively with our businesses. Continue reading

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Working in partnership to improve student mental health

With students under increasing pressure academically, financially and emotionally, many are finding it hard to maintain good mental health. Concerned about getting good grades, finding a graduate job, and working part-time or sometimes even full-time alongside academics can mean the pressure is high. Meanwhile, others with pre-existing mental health problems can find it difficult to get the support they need as they transition from home to university.

When NUS last surveyed students on mental health, a fifth of students believed themselves to have a mental health problem and 90 per cent reported having experienced feelings of mental distress including stress, anxiety or a lack of energy and motivation. More than one in ten think thoughts relating to suicide or self-harm. What was really concerning was that most respondents didn’t tell anyone about their mental anguish.

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Europe and Research Excellence in the UK

The recent results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) have once again demonstrated the strength of research in the UK with 30% of submissions judged to be world-leading. Following a visit to the University of Ghent, one of Kent’s international strategic partners, I have been reflecting on the relationship between research excellence and European research funding and collaboration. Continue reading

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How big is the funding gap with fees of £6K?

There has been much debate recently about the potential impact of reducing the undergraduate tuition fee in England from £9K to £6K. Estimates of the funding gap that would need to be made up by converting loans paid to students to grants paid to institutions have ranged from £800M to £3BN per year. Extrapolating those figures across the life of a parliament leads to an estimated funding gap of at least £10BN. Continue reading

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What MPs want

With fewer than 100 days until the nation goes to the polls, public affairs professionals (call us campaigners, political strategists, lobbyists if you will) in private and public sector organisations across the country will be making their final bid to see their priorities enshrined in the parties’ manifestos.

But what do MPs – and those who hope to win a seat in the Commons come 8 May – want to hear about higher education? And perhaps more importantly, what do they think about the university sector?

Universities UK is unveiling research today, carried out by ComRes, which asked current and future MPs which university issues matter most to them. The results will help those of us with responsibility for parliamentary affairs to understand where we could do more to inform, engage or even challenge the views of MPs.

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An American perspective on the value of higher education

From the earliest days of our country, we have seen education as the foundation for democracy and citizenship, for social mobility and national prosperity. Higher education opens minds and opens doors. Yet high school students and families are increasingly questioning its value. Is investing in a college or university education still worth it?

The short answer is “yes.” There is no doubt that college pays off financially. A wide range of statistics shows the economic advantage of a four-year college education. Over a lifetime, students who graduate from college can expect to make about 60% more than those who do not, well over a million dollars more than they would otherwise. Completing college makes an even greater difference to the earning power of young women. A 25-34 year-old female with a bachelor’s degree can expect to make 70% more than if she had only completed her high school diploma.

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Rising to the open data challenge

Last week, Universities UK and Policy Exchange hosted a round table chaired by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. Maude has led on the government’s open data agenda, which has contributed to the UK’s ranking at the top of the international pile for open data. He recounted the experience of government that has had to engage with significant culture change and practical challenges. However, the benefits for driving accountability, improving decision making and improving the quality of data have been more than worth the effort.

The round table sought to build on this success by exploring the role for open data in the higher education sector. It brought together a variety of people from the sector and beyond to discuss the issues. This included Professor Sir Ian Diamond of the University of Aberdeen who saw great opportunities for the role of open data in driving modernisation across the range of activities of the university. Like many of the participants, Professor Diamond saw applications for improving operations, contributing to the research process and supporting the experience and outcomes of students.

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Higher education & Hollywood – are you cyber secure?

The attacks on Sony studios are a stark reminder of the potential damage that hacking can do to organisations. Films such as Fury and indiscreet emails about stars and staff have been leaked onto the web with the whole situation escalating into an international incident. It is probably fair to assume that the Chief Executive of Sony Studios is going to be tightening up both his own security practices and that of the rest of the organisation.

Just like Hollywood studios, universities potentially face the same range of cyber security threats, including advanced politically motivated attacks, attempts to steal potentially valuable intellectual property and damaging leaks about organisational practices. However, the leadership of UK universities recognise the importance of effective information security to the safe operation of their institutions.

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