I set up De la Cour Communications to help stimulate interest in student mobility within the European Higher Education Area, particularly among the seemingly reluctant British. So I knew I had to attend the European Universities Association (EUA) special event in Oslo to discuss the outcome of its project ‘Mapping University Mobility of Staff and Students’ (MAUNIMO).

MOBILITY is rising up the higher education agenda worldwide, but despite all the attention the percentage of European students travelling abroad to study remains virtually unchanged. Or, so the people who should know believe!

But actual data on outbound student mobility is patchy – to say the least – and often based on ‘best guesswork’.


So, how timely that someone should want to check the figures, especially as the European Commission and Education Ministers are calling for 20% of European higher education students to spend at least three month in another of the continent’s countries by 2020.

And thank goodness, then, for MAUNIMO (see Comprehensive vision for Europe’s new student mobility agenda)

Key goal

Through a two-year project the European University Association (EUA) took up the issue of mobility – a key goal of the famous ‘Bologna Process’ to use higher education to create a more integrated Europe with fewer barriers between nation states.

Michael Gaebel, EUA Head of Higher Education Policy, explained: “We came to realise – just as anybody else – that what we knew about mobility apart from statistics about Erasmus exchange students was rather anecdotal. And while governments agreed on benchmarks, and must make efforts to enhance mobility, we should look at institutional approaches towards mobility”.

Freedom to roam

And so MAUNIMO was born: to develop a tool to help mobility or ‘the freedom to roam’ as Oslo University Rector, Prof Ole Petter Ottersen, put it in his opening speech at the Oslo event.

A vital first step is developing institutional strategies and improving the capture of data on mobile staff and students, which the EUA addresses in its ‘Mobility: Closing the gap between policy and practice.’

I won’t run through what everyone said at the Oslo conference in this brief blog, but I was surprised to find one key word missing in an otherwise superbly organised gathering of over 100 ‘movers and shakers’ from European higher education: Communications!

What about communications?

I said as much in my second day contribution from the audience: Every university now has a professional communications department, usually consisting of former journalists, student recruiters and marketers – sometimes backed up by freelance consultants. So why don’t the people charged with encouraging mobility, be they Academic Registrars or Directors of Internationalisation , harness this valuable resource?

There’s probably no better way to promote University X and show it is a world-player than by giving examples of how its researchers are working internationally to solve this or that problem – or how its students are getting a great start to their careers after a year abroad.

If universities are struggling to attract good applicants from abroad, especially Europe, then maybe they should review their communications and marketing effort, which may be too narrowly targeted on recruiting from either the home market or high-paying international students from outside the EU.

It’s just a thought!

Main photo : Delegates at the Oslo MAUNIMO event