Published: 29th May 2019
Indian students are focused and have a global outlook: Joanne Harris, University of London
Joanne Harris, Associate Director of Student Experience at UoL, talks about studying in UK, handling foreign students and why they are as welcoming as any other country
There is a huge chunk, comprising more than seven lakh, of Indian students who travel abroad for higher studies. Even though the USA remains at the top of the preference list, the UK too is proving to be a hot destination for students. We spoke to Joanne Harris, Associate Director of Student Experience at the University of London about her experience of handling students and what universities like UoL have in store for foreign students and Indians in particular. Excerpts from the conversation:
We hear a lot about universities appointing teams for value addition. But as somebody who handles student experience, what is your regular day like?
My role as Associate Director, Student Experience, is to ensure that we optimise every part of the student journey, identifying opportunities to add value for the student. We utilise the accessibility of social media to interact with students, we use email campaigns to provide regular updates and information. We also curate student written content and blogs, as well as offering useful materials on wellbeing, communicating with students in an authentic and personable voice. Of particular impact was our development of an online student induction. This means that the first time a student registers they are guided through the Student Induction and are immediately offered a digital welcome where we show them around the London campus and make them feel a part of the University of London community. A typical day includes building community engagement on social media, making sure our students feel supported and involved in our activities. If there are any issues, we respond as quickly as we can with resolutions. We listen to what our students have to say and invite them to speak to us, which we take care to moderate.
Staying connected must be a huge part of this paradigm. How well has it been working?
We have a wealth of tools at our fingertips to stay in touch with our students and vice-versa. This all adds to a sense of community among students who may be studying on opposite sides of the world, and we are constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to increase and sustain this. They can gain a University of London education from any country in the world. When they complete their studies, they are invited to London for their graduation, where they have the chance to receive their degrees from our Chancellor, Her Royal Highness, Princess Royal – which is an amazing way celebrate all the hard work that’s gone into their studies.
What is life like for the average UoL student — here and abroad?
At Recognised Teaching Centres like Indian School of Business & Finance (ISBF), students will have face-to-face teaching with the Teaching Centre’s own faculty staff, and the University of London will provide background services. These include our Student Portal and the Online Library. We have also recently partnered with Nightline, which is a confidential listening service that our students, wherever they are in the world, have access to via their phones, Skype, emails, instant messaging and text. The well being of our students is incredibly important to us and this means that whether a student is feeling nervous about an exam or would like someone impartial to speak to, they know that there is a service they can turn to for support.
Illustration: Amit Bandre
There's a lot of focus at the Bootcamp about getting students ready for the global job market. How do you prepare UoL students to enter the job market?
The Bootcamp is an event we do with the Bombay Stock Exchange for students studying a degree which receives academic direction from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Securing a place on the Bootcamp mirrors a competitive process. So, like in the real world in the job market, they have to apply by sending us their most up to date CV and completing an application form. The top 20 students are offered the opportunity to experience the Bombay Stock Exchange Bootcamp.
What do you think is the best way to train students to become successful professionals in a compact way?
With the business placements we’ve facilitated in other countries, some especially keen and hardworking students have actually secured employment with the company upon completion of their studies. There is also the chance to take away valuable life lessons from the whole experience, including feedback from careers experts.
From your experience, what was it like to interact with Indian students? How would you rate Indian students as compared to students from other parts of the world?
I find Indian students to be so educationally focused and clearly value what they’re studying. They’re hardworking, they’re industrious, they are innovative in the way they think, and they have a global outlook. They’re all really well-read with great knowledge of current affairs. Our students in India are important to us and contribute positively to this network and that is why I have invested time to come over here to facilitate the Bombay Stock Exchange Bootcamp.