Walking across campus at the University of Wolverhampton, you could bump into a student from almost every continent in the world. Students from India, China, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Malaysia attend lectures and social events with peers whose journey to classes has involved a short bus ride from the Black Country, Birmingham or Shropshire. The rich diversity of the student population at Wolverhampton is one of its strengths, with people from different cultures and backgrounds mixing and forming lasting friendships.
The International Centre (IC) plays an important role in not only recruiting students from around the world but also ensuring their arrival and time in Wolverhampton is happy and fulfilling. One person who has witnessed the evolution and growth of the IC is Yves Milhavy, Head of International Recruitment and Special Projects, who retires in September after 39 years at the University.
The UK Recruitment Team has a number of new faces to drive forward the ambitious plans for international students in the future.
Yves joined the University as a lecturer in French in the Department of Languages and European Studies in 1973 before becoming head of the newly created Office for International Education in 1988. He says the international focus of the institution has changed ‘radically’ since those early days when the main aim was to tap into European Union funded schemes like Erasmus and Socrates.
“We had huge numbers of European students coming into the University of Wolverhampton as well as very significant numbers of our own students going on Erasmus placements to France, Germany, Spain etc. Then in the 1990s universities started to look overseas to recruit students, and in 1999 we became the International Relations Office, and very soon after that the International Office, to reflect the increasing importance of international recruitment,” he says.
Eventually the International Centre in its current form came into being in 2009 under the leadership of Director Jo Gittens, as the University diversified into Trans-national Education (TNE), whereby the teaching occurs in the country where the students live and is delivered at a partner institution – and Yves believes this is where the future lies.
He adds: “There has been quite an evolution, from a fairly academic start. It is now a multi-faceted, fully integrated centre, and I think international students like that. We have created a home from home for overseas students and they identify us as their first port of call.”
Yves believes, among other things, that it is the care the University offers to international students that makes it an attractive choice. “We really care for our students. From the minute we meet them to when they graduate, there is a level of pastoral care that is second to none. We talk to students, but also to their parents/sponsors as they often are the ones who have the final say as to where they are going to study. We carry out our mission with great care.
“I think we are also seen as competitive and offer great value for money.”
As Head of International Recruitment, Yves has travelled all over the world to recruit students for the University. He has been to China over 20 times and says he finds it a fascinating place, and he is also fond of West Africa, particularly Cameroon. Other trips have taken him to Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Morocco, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the USA, Argentina, Chile and, of course, Europe.
Yves says: “My best memory will be to have been given the opportunity to travel the world in order to recruit students for the University and at the same time meeting a huge number of people from different cultures and speaking different languages.
“That has been the most rewarding thing and that will always be with me. I went to China over 20 years ago and it was a completely different country from what it is now. It is not about going on holidays, as sometimes colleagues joke about our frequent travelling – we always have gruelling schedules but at the same time we meet different people from different backgrounds and it is very enriching.”
And what does Yves believe international students bring to the University of Wolverhampton?
“There is a lot of mixing going on and international students become friends of British students, and that can only be good. I think the University epitomises the global village. This is basically a microcosm of the world. You see African students mixing with Saudi students, Chinese with European and Indian with British students. That can only be good for the future of our world.”
The UK Recruitment Team will build on the achievements and developments within the International Centre over the last few years. There are some new faces, including Andrew Malley, who has joined Wolverhampton as Head of International Recruitment and Business Development.
He has broad experience in the international education sector, most recently with an awarding body of UK higher education (HE) and further education qualifications, leading a team on business development and partnerships with UK and international HE institutions, colleges, governments and private enterprises across the Americas, India and Europe.
He is joined by Carl Adaway, David Wedge, Premal Kamdar and Vina Patel. Andrew explains his vision is that TNE and international student recruitment will not be seen as separate entities; it will all become “international".
“Our team has to find its position in that global education market,” he says. “I see this in the new economies; in Africa in places such as Cameroon, Ghana, Botswana, and also Mauritius and Indonesia. We still have our core markets of India, China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia too.”
The key to achieving this will be creating a truly global student community, Andrew continues. “Student recruitment is not just about going and getting students. One of the best ways is via former students. So we will be expanding international alumni projects and building a social community online, as well as engaging with our partners abroad more.”
I think the University epitomises the global village. Both Andrew and Yves are positive about the benefits international students bring not only to the University, but the region as a whole.
Andrew highlights the fact that overseas students have a huge impact on the local economy through everything from paying rent to landlords to spending money in shops and even using public transport.
And with a strong team alongside him, Andrew hopes to develop more exciting opportunities to enrich the University of Wolverhampton’s global community.