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USTLG Spring Conference 2013

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The USTLG Spring Conference 2013 took place over a month ago now, on the 22nd May 2013. Due to the two projects I’ve been managing, the additional team support duties I covered, as well as a week of annual leave, I’m only putting forward my comments on the day now. The focus of this year’s Spring Conference was ‘supporting international students’, a topic which is interesting to me for two non-work-related reasons: firstly because my friend group is almost entirely composed of international students, so I could see a lot of truth in what was discussed that day, but more importantly, because I intend to become an international student myself, hopefully in 2014.

International recruitment

This first presentation was both the most interesting and the most relevant to me, I was able to view the comments from the two perspectives I’ve stated above, on top of my role as a member of library staff. Out of the six reasons listed in the presentation for why people choose to study abroad, five of them apply to me, but I have one more (which is by far the most important), which is that studying in the USA is, for lack of a better phrase, ‘my dream’ and has been for so long that I can’t remember any one, central reason why I first decided on it. So later in the presentation when it was stated that the USA doesn’t even put in any effort with international recruitment, but people come pouring in anyway, I can completely believe it.

The presentation pointed out that international recruitment is suffering in this country as a result of political decisions being made relating to immigration. This doesn’t surprise me at all, as I have seen how these changes have affected my friends and continue to do so. The tightening and complication of visa regulations, changing the rules of post-study work, as well as the general attitude of the government and the media of ‘we don’t want immigrants’ (international students are actually classed as immigrants in the immigration figures, even though they are only here on a temporary basis and over 90% return to their home country after graduation), means that from a recruitment point of view, the UK is becoming less and less of an attractive proposition for international students and is therefore losing its competitive edge. This point was extremely well made by the presenters; if only they could make it directly to the government.

International universities

There were three presentations each talking about a different university in the UK having made a link with another university, based in East Asia. They were Liverpool (who have made a connection with a Chinese university), Newcastle (Singapore) and Nottingham (China and Malaysia). It was intriguing to hear about these other campuses, because that’s exactly what they are, an extension of a UK university in another country, and also about the challenges faced by having a site in another country, in making it the same as best is possible, but also keeping it different out of necessity. I was not aware of there being any UK universities with overseas campuses (I know there are some US universities who have these), but I do not believe it was addressed at the conference why these links are all with East Asian universities, as opposed to European, American, African or Oceanic universities, so I would quite like to find out what has caused that trend to emerge. In the opening introduction to the conference, our Librarian spoke of how she was about to go and visit a university in Hong Kong, so is that something that we here at Leeds have on the cards as well?

International everything else

Kirsty Carver is one of the people who we were able to talk to when I visited Bradford University’s library at the beginning of the year. She spoke to us about her role in supporting international students, which was the topic of her presentation at the conference. Kirsty made several important points about the language used within libraries and the barriers this can create between staff and students, as well as many of the other challenges faced by international students, for which the library should provide support. After lunch was the pitch by Knovel and I’ll admit that I switched off a little during this presentation and used it as an opportunity to check the USTLG hastag feed on Twitter, since I was not in a position to be purchasing engineering-related research software. I was interested to hear the last talk, which was on student expectations but unfortunately, some of the previous presentations ran over their allotted time, so I had to leave before I was able to hear it.
Overall it was an informative day, from more than one point of view. I’m very behind in writing posts as I’ve done a lot of stuff, which has left little time to write about it, so I will attempt to catch up over the next couple of weeks.
Thank you for reading.

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