European university PR and communications representatives will be gathering in the ancient Italian city of Perugia in September to reflect on the upheaval taking place across higher education in Europe. Here’s my look at what members of EUPRIO will be talking about.

The three-day event promises to be a great opportunity to share the latest thinking on university communications and marketing with colleagues from all over Europe in the splendid historical setting of Perugia.

The conference is being organised by Università per Stranieri di Perugia – the University for Foreigners of Perugia – and AICUN, the Italian association of university communicators.

It opens with a welcome ceremony on Sunday 6 September – a break with the traditional format of annual conferences held by the European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers’ association, EUPRIO.

Upheaval across higher education

The conference title Turn it upside down reflects the upheaval taking place across higher education, with digitisation, globalisation and privatisation all throwing up fresh challenges, including in how universities communicate and market themselves.

Speakers from over ten different European countries will offer their perspectives on what will be required from universities and their marketing and communications departments in the future.

View from Canada

Participants will get two chances to attend the workshop led by Adrian J. Ebsary, Online Community Specialist at the University of Ottawa, on the future of higher education in the digital era on Monday 7 September.

Adrian has engaged audiences at more than 30 conferences and events over the last several years on topics such as online advertising, data science, multilingual e-governance and futurism.

Trained as a biochemist, he switched into online marketing and in his new role has helped his university’s bilingual approach to digital marketing and community management.

His workshops will take you through some of the major predictions from futurists and experts about how universities will evolve in the coming decade.

He says: “The earliest signs of the popping economic bubble of higher education are evident in the United States, which will surely spread to markets with less competition worldwide.

“From à la carte degrees, to gamified online education, to the dissociation of research and teaching, to innovative digital marketing tactics, university professionals of tomorrow will have to contend with altered funding and new demands from students. How will your institution reinvent itself?”


Crowdfunding is the collective effort of many individuals – the ‘crowd’ – who network and pool their resources to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations, usually with the help of the internet.

Ivana Pais believes it may be part of the answer to the challenges facing research and higher education in the future.

The associate Professor of Economic Sociology at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan has been researching social networks in labour markets, organisations, entrepreneurship and new ways of working through social media.

Her workshops, also on Monday 7 September, will look at how the ‘crowd’ is already funding business and entrepreneurship, social causes, films, real estate, music and a host of other activities.

She will ask: What are the practices and the potential of crowdfunding in scientific research? What is the role of universities in promoting crowdfunding campaigns? Who are the “crowdfunders” of academic research (and teaching)?

Identity management

Among the lectures and workshops on Tuesday 8 September will be a look at the corporate identity of the university of the future led by Jan Dries, Head of Communications at the University of Antwerp, in Belgium, and a social and organisational psychologist.

He previously worked as a senior consultant and assisted numerous companies to become conscious of their identity and to express that identity in design, communication and behaviour.

He says: “Every institution in higher education is concerned about its corporate or brand image. The image people have of a university is not easily changed. In an attempt to maintain a strong image, we can make use of what we say (corporate communications), what we show (corporate design) and what we do (corporate behaviour).

The way in which universities and university colleges communicate and deal with their corporate image is changing rapidly, but the theory and practice of corporate (or brand) identity management is changing at a much slower pace and in different directions. Which elements of the old teachings are still relevant and which practices are obsolete and can be abandoned?

Jan is a previous winner of the EUPRIO Award, when he picked up the European higher education communication ‘Oscar’ at our 2013 conference in Canterbury, Kent, for his university’s recruitment campaign, which turned into a National Geographic TV series ‘Behind the Science’.

EUPRIO Awards 2015

The EUPRIO Awards provide an opportunity for our members to demonstrate their professional excellence and originality in projects that make a real difference to our universities.

That might be a campaign centred on student or staff communications, public engagement or perhaps media relations, which highlights how universities are communicating effectively with key audiences.

The Awards are a chance to showcase these projects, share best practice and receive recognition from peers for a job well done. The judging and presentations take place at our annual conference, so it’s an ideal opportunity to show what makes your university communications practice distinctive.

The winning project, together with the second and third placed ones, will be selected by taking into account the votes of conference delegates and a jury made up of members of the EUPRIO Steering Committee.

The winner is invited to send one person to attend next year’s conference and present a keynote lecture if they wish – with all travel and accommodation expenses covered.

Last year’s winner was Uppsala University in Sweden and Gisella Bengtsson will be presenting a workshop on ‘My University Town’ #minuniversitetsstad -the Instagram challenge that became an exhibition… which became a multichannel project to present a new University-branded product – the ‘Uppsala University Calendar 2014’.

See here for more details about entering this year’s EUPRIO Awards.

A warm welcome guaranteed

Paola Scioli, the Italian national representative on the EUPRIO Steering Committee, said: “The whole organising team is looking forward to offering a really good programme, full of interesting speeches and networking opportunities.

“There are more sessions than usual and a good balance between workshops and lectures giving plenty of opportunities to listen and learn something new on the one hand and also share experiences.

“As for the social activities, we’ve tried hard to offer our EUPRIO colleagues an unforgettable experience of a region which offers plenty from the historical, artistic and gastronomic point of views.

“As for our hosts, Perugia’s University for Foreigners offers something else – the opportunity to know some fundamental words in Italian with an intensive language course for Euprians which will help them gain a better understanding of our beautiful country and people.”

The conference ends with a chance to sample Umbrian local products and music before participants depart for home on Wednesday 9 September after what promises to be a marvellous experience.


Find out how to register here

Last word from the President

EUPRIO’s President Christine Legrand is clearly a woman of vision: Two-and-a-half years ago, before the idea of a conference in Perugia, she started to learn Italian after a lifetime’s love of the country and its people.

Now, she says: “I feel confident enough to at least start my opening welcome speech in the native language.”

Arrivederci a Perugia!

THIS blog first appeared on the EUPRIO website