The 2014 conference of the European universities public relations and communications network EUPRIO is taking place in the Austrian Alps this September under the umbrella of ‘How to communicate in a world dominated by change!’ Here we take a first look at what’s on offer:

THE pace of change in higher education is accelerating and those on the frontline explaining what is going on have never faced such challenging times.

With cuts to government spending, and demographic trends reducing the flow of 18 and 19-year-olds, the need to communicate the value – and values – of higher education have never been greater.

So, it is timely that EUPRIO’s 2014 conference in Innsbruck, Austria (pictured), should be meeting under the umbrella of ‘How to communicate in a world dominated by change!’

The conference takes place from September 4-6 and arrangements are going ahead at full-steam, said Véronique Eloy, who chairs the conference task force made up of members from half-a-dozen countries.

She said: “With two outstanding keynote sessions, five master classes, six lectures and 11 workshops to choose from; and with speakers from all over Europe, and as far away as India, I’m sure we’ll deliver a full, varied and very useful programme for all EUPRIO members.

Registrations open in April

“The website opens for registration in early April, and master classes will be based on ‘first-come first-served’ as numbers attending will be restricted. So don’t be late if you want to attend one.”

The opening keynote address will be by Professor Sijbolt Noorda, President of the Academic Cooperation Association (ACU) – an international higher education think-tank based in Brussels. He is a former President of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands and served on the board of European University Association (EUA) between 2009 and 2011 and lectures widely on university leadership and the relation between academia and society.

His speech will set the scene of #EUPRIO14 by asking provocatively ‘Can universities be trusted?’ and challenge traditional ways of looking at universities communications. “Too often we assume that what we’re doing is of high quality and benefits all. But what if the public don’t believe us?” Professor Noorda will ask.

Key conference theme

Denis Ancion, whose two-year term as EUPRIO President draws to a close at the Innsbruck conference, said a key conference theme would be whether the existing university system needs to adapt to the changing environment to secure a sustainable future.

“Universities are having to decide whether to focus on developing research or teaching and are stepping into niches. They are forming partnerships and branch campuses, both inside and outside the country, and are struggling to benefit from developments in online learning.

“Social media has changed forever the way students find out about higher education, not just at home, but across the world, and especially in rapidly growing markets such as China, India, Brazil and Africa.

“Students want to be sure that higher education will give them the best start to their working lives, particularly if they are investing their own funds in their degree course, or going overseas to study.”

Rankings masterclass

To help, or hinder, them are the plethora of national and world university rankings and during the conference Andrea Costa, of Milan’s Bocconi University, will be delivering a rankings masterclass. This will delve into what the rankings are actually measuring and look at their reliability.


It would be almost impossible to hold a higher education conference today and not mention MOOCs; and in Innsbruck we’ll be holding a workshop looking beyond the hype with Régis Faubet, web manager for Grenoble Ecole de Management. He will be examine the experiments, successes and failures of this (not so) new form of distance learning and its implications in the communications of higher education institutions.


Of course, there won’t be a future for scientific education and research unless we can interest more of the next generation to study science and technology. Alexandra Hroncová, from the Faculty of Science at Prague’s Charles University, will argue in her lecture ‘Edutainment versus Playful Learning’ that part of the answer lies in harnessing the power of electronic games to get young people, and girls in particular, to understand science through games.

Redefining PR

For those looking for fresh inspiration in facing up to the communications challenges of handling so much change, Britain’s Andy Green promises to help redefine public relations in his entertaining and thought-provoking masterclass ‘#PRredefined – why you need to adopt ‘New School PR’ to succeed!’ which will be full of insight and creative ideas to help transform how you think about your job and your function.

Getting there:
Most people will probably travel to the conference, via Munich Airport, and transfer to Innsbruck, via mini-bus. Details will be published when the full programme goes live in early April. There is a reduced price for the bus for #EUPRIO14 delegates and registered participants will get a special code with their application confirmation. The round-tip is 62 euros; one-way-trip 39 euros.

* This story first appeared on the website of the European Universities Public Relations & Information Officers’ association (EUPRIO) on Wednesday 26 February, 2014, under the headline Keeping up with the pace of higher education change