Despite the impression that Europe is sometimes falling apart with the rise of nationalism, popularism and self-harming moves like Brexit, I’m pleased to report that the European higher education PR and communication network EUPRIO is at least in excellent health.

Nic, left, with Ulrike Reimann and Chris Coe in Sevilla

The last annual conference of the association that I attended was in the southern Spanish city of Sevilla. It attracted over 360 representatives from universities in 21 European countries — with other participants coming from as far as South Africa to discuss the digital challenges facing university communications.

For me, it was a particularly pleasant reunion, as I was able to celebrate becoming a life member of EUPRIO with two others so honoured – Ulrike Reimann from Germany and fellow Englishman, Chris Coe. Both served with me on the Steering Committee. The two other life members, Italy’s Edeoardo Teodoro Brioschi and Josef König from Germany, unfortunately couldn’t make it to Sevilla.

Select introduction

I’ve been part of the EUPRIO family since 1990 and attended 25 of the last 28 annual conferences around Europe. My introduction was at a rather select gathering of fellow European university public relations practitioners in a converted monastery on a Tuscan hillside above Siena.

Back in those faraway days, the cold war was ending and Europe was coming back together again after decades of East-West division! It was my second year in higher education and public relations; and as I’ve blogged before it felt like joining a rather secretive sect.

There were just 60 of us at EUPRIO’s Siena conference, but despite not knowing anyone else there and being the only representative from a non-elite university, I was made very welcome by our Italian hosts and other members.

A network of friends

Over 360 people attended EUPRIO’s 2018 conference

Of course, EUPRIO has grown and developed since those early pioneering days – and it now has members from Lebanon in the south to Iceland in the north and stretching all the way to French Nouvelle-Calédonie in the Pacific Ocean – but it retains its key strength of being a network of friends.

Our universities may sometimes be competing for the same European research grants or international students, but that doesn’t prevent Euprians, as we call our members, from being an invaluable source of information and advice about what is happening in different countries around Europe.

We live in interesting times – in the British sense of the word – and it can be confusing trying to understand what is happening with attacks on academic freedom and deciding how higher education should confront challenges, such as the rise of nationalism.

Stronger together

But we are stronger together, and from the UK viewpoint I’m particularly keen we keep as many links with European colleagues as possible in the face of Brexit.

So long live EUPRIO and good luck to Jan Dries from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who took over as EUPRIO President from Christine Legrand at the end of the Sevilla conference. + I wrote a number of reports for the EUPRIO website from the 2018 Sevilla conference in my role as EUPRIO’s roving reporter, which you can find here. I also interviewed some of the workshop presenters for EUPRIO’s new YouTube channel including the amazing Gerry McGovern, who set the conference alight with his razor-edge critique of what is wrong with higher education marketing and university websites in particular.

Nic Mitchell is the main contributor to news on the EUPRIO website and helps to manage the association’s Facebook page and @EUPRIO news twitter account with Italian Steering Committee member Paola Claudia Scioli.