Not long now until the EUPRIO family of European higher education communication and PR professionals comes together in Mannheim for its 2017 annual conference.

This year’s event – from June 29 to July 2 – is focusing on how universities can successfully network with their cities, regions and companies.

Places are filling up fast on some of the most popular workshops and masterclasses as the maximum number of participants is limited to 40 on the breakaway sessions to help make them interactive. The deadline for conference registration, which allows (free) entry into the EUPRIO Awards, has been extended to 20 June.

Great place to discuss networking

Mannheim, at the heart of the important Rhein-Neckar metropolitan region in Germany, is a great choice of venue to talk about networking between higher education and their local communities, says conference organiser Katja Bär.

Conference host Katja Bär

She is director of communications and fundraising at Mannheim University and points out that her institution, which is hosting the conference, was founded as a School of Commerce in 1907 with the help of Mannheim’s civil society.

Back then industry leaders were looking for business education combined with education in a broader sense and the university has kept close links with its city and region and the businesses in this industrial powerhouse ever since.

“It is part of the Mannheim spirit to reject living in an ivory tower”, says Katja. “Exchanging ideas and networking with our businesses and industry as well as our city and region comes naturally to us.”

Fundraising moving up European agenda

Private-public partnerships have also proved vital for fundraising and the university raised €13 million for its renovation project ‘Renaissance of the Baroque Palace’ – the venue for 2017 annual conference of the European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers association (EUPRIO).

Katja says even in Germany “we can no longer rely on the State to fully fund all our needs and we need the support of donors and generous patrons and Alumni.”

She will be running a workshop on ‘Essential lessons for fundraising’ drawing on her experience of the Mannheim ‘palace campaign’ and talking about a new even bigger €100 million campaign – which won the first German Universities’ Fundraising Prize last year.

No longer an Anglo-Saxon trait

Fundraising used to be seen as more of an Anglo-Saxon higher education trait, but more and more continental European universities are stepping up their game.

Anna Mundell from Bocconi University, Milan

Among them is Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Their director of development and alumni, Anna Mundell, picked up many skills while working in the US and led the first ever fundraising campaign for an Italian university, aiming to raise €120 million by 2020.

She will running a masterclass about what good alumni engagement and fundraising looks like on Friday June 30 – the first full working day of the EUPRIO conference.

Communicating beyond the gates

Among the multitude of other workshops and lectures to choose from during the Mannheim conference is an interactive session (repeated twice on Saturday 1 July) led by Tricia Alegra Jenkins. This will be looking at how universities can build relations with marginalised and socially excluded groups unlikely to be represented as either students or staff.

Tricia gained the MBE for services to higher education and is a recognised international expert in social inclusion.

She was the first director of the international centre for excellence in educational opportunities at Liverpool University and is now based in Croatia as the founder of Catalyst for Dialogue, a small consulting company with a global network which encourages conversations between different societal stakeholders, particularly children.

Her workshop will ask: ‘Which local communities does your university normally communicate with, are there reasons for going beyond these, and how can this best happen?’

Tricia will outline the concept of ‘Locally Defined Minorities’ and explore how majority and minority groups in society are not determined by numbers, but by power relationships that determine access to resources in society, such as educational opportunities.

Don’t forget to enter the EUPRIO Awards

The EUPRIO Awards are a chance to showcase university communication projects that make a real difference and share best practice with colleagues across Europe. So don’t be shy about entering if you’ve run a successful campaign over the last year.

The winner is invited to give a presentation during the following year’s conference as the association’s guest – with registration, travel and accommodation all paid for.

You can enter for free, but you need to have registered to attend the conference.

Last year’s winner was Paul Helbing and his team at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), for their ‘making a point’ mini campaigns. This tackled some of the major issues facing the city of Amsterdam, ranging from caring for senior citizens to the need to recycle the growing piles of garbage clogging the city streets. More about the EUPRIO Awards can be found here.

* Find out more about the full programme for EUPRIO’s Mannheim conference, all the speakers and to register for #EUPRIO17