You’ll be living from ‘feast to famine’ they told me when I decided to go freelance and set up De la Cour Communications at the start of 2012.

And that’s more or less the way it has turned out. But I’m not complaining, as long as the occasional feast comes along.

My December proved to be an unexpected period of feasting (before the ritual feasting around Christmas started).

It was certainly my busiest period of 2013, apart from having a key PR role in the European Universities Public Relations & Information Officers’ (EUPRIO) annual conference, which attracted over 200 higher education communicators from every corner of Europe to Canterbury this June.

Second year ‘flying solo’

December was originally going to be a quiet end to my second year ‘flying solo’. The diary looked light, apart from popping down to London for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Education Journalism Awards, held in the House of Commons. These are always fun events; allowing university PR and marketing folk to mix and mingle with the UK education media crowd as the wine and parliamentary party snacks flow freely.

Of course, this year was a bit more serious, as I had been shortlisted for the ‘Outstanding Online Education Commentary’ Award for blogging on this website about international student mobility. I was up against people from the Financial Times, Guardian, Huffington Post and Nottingham University and thought I had done well enough to make the shortlist.

International HE revolution

Then, out of the blue, I was asked by University World News if I could cover The Observatory on Borderless Education (OBHE) conference on the ‘International higher education revolution: Impacts on mobility, qualifications, networks’ conference at Regent’s University London. The conference started the day before the CIPR event and sounded very much ‘up-my-street’. So I rearranged travel plans were and booked into a hotel across the road to where I was staying after the Awards night.

A few days later EUPRIO asked if I could get to their planning meeting for the next conference, which is being held in Innsbruck, Austria, from 4-7 September 2014. (I had earlier offered to help with the English-language speaker and workshop profiles for the programmes, so it made sense attending)

Next stop Milan!

Thing was the meeting was taking place at 12-noon in Milan the day after the House of Commons Awards night.

So, more travel juggling. As I would be in London anyway, one advantage was that I was able to get a ‘reasonably-priced’ direct British Airways flight to Milan’s Linate Airport, which is just a 20-minute taxi ride to the Bocconi University where EUPRIO’S Task Force would be meeting.

That’s how a one night stay in London turned into two-nights at different hotels – with a third night in Milan, before flying back to Newcastle on Saturday 14 December.

No rest either when I got home, as I needed to finish writing up my stories from the OBHE conference for the University World News pre-Christmas edition Tuesday deadline.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that I came runner-up to Jane Bird from the FT for the CIPR Education & Skills Award, and the certificate is now proudly displayed on my office wall. Mind I had to keep the celebrations a little restrained, as I had to be at Heathrow by 9.45am the next morning!

My luggage didn’t manage to keep up with me on the return-leg, though!

For when I arrived at Linate Airport, I was told if I made ‘a run for it’ I could catch the earlier flight back to Heathrow as they expected my later flight to be delayed and I might miss the connection to Newcastle. Luckily, the suitcase was delivered to my home two days later, complete with the CIPR Award and my last-minute Christmas shopping!

Fascinating conference

The OBHE conference was fascinating by the way, and there are links to my reports from it on University World News website, see here:

New satellite could deliver MOOCs to Africa
Nic Mitchell 12 December 2013 Issue No:300

Higher cost no guarantee of higher education quality
Nic Mitchell 20 December 2013 Issue No:301

Affordability is the key to expanding international HE
Nic Mitchell 20 December 2013 Issue No:301

How about dropping the term MOOCs?
Nic Mitchell 20 December 2013 Issue No:301

* I’ll keep you posted about who will be speaking at #EUPRIO14 in Innsbruck early in the New Year. But the theme has been agreed ‘ How to communicate in a world dominated by change’ and there can’t be a more relevant subject matter as European higher education hurtles into another period promising ever-more radical changes ahead. So make a diary note of the dates: 4-7 September, 2014