There are some heavy weight issues to be discussed at the 2012 annual conference of the European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers association (EUPRIO) in Gothenburg, Sweden, from September 6-8.

“Under the theme of ‘The social contract between universities and society’ we’ll be looking at how European universities should use communications to win public support in their fight against cutbacks – and challenge the assumption that higher education savings can be easily made because most voters are not interested in the valuable role universities play”, says EUPRIO President Paolo Pomati.

Oslo Rector Professor Ottersen: After Utøya, universities must help solve society’s ills

Setting the scene will be Professor Ole Petters Ottersen, pictured, Rector of the University of Oslo, who will argue that universities need to redefine their mission, particularly after the tragedy at Utøya in Norway – where 69 students and other young people lost their lives.

Professor Ottersen will call for more openness between academia and society to try to find the solutions to many of society’s ills – whether something as inconceivable as the massacre of Utøya or how to achieve sustainable development, equality in health service delivery or promote democracy.

Master classes

The conference will then divide into master classes – led by a very strong pan-European team of communication professionals.

Here the topics vary quite widely and include ‘How to get your strategic plan accepted’ with tips and advice from Monique Jipping and Tom De Smedt. Monique worked for six years as director of communications at Utrecht University while Tom was at Ghent University before being appointed communication adviser for the government of Flanders, where he developed the region’s communication strategy. Together they will discuss how communications professionals can learn how to be taken seriously when asked to provide strategic advice to their universities in a ‘tricks of the trade’ session.

Among the alternative master classes is one, led by Thomas Estermann, from the European Universities Association (EUA). This will look at possible scenarios for the future of higher education funding and governance and the need for universities and their management to adapt to increasing expectations and declining public budgets. The focus will be on the massive implications for communication professionals.

That’s just a taster of what is offer. See the conference programme and the speakers’ information on the EUPRIO website to select the master classes and workshops you wish to attend.

Google and Universities

The conference will draw to a close with a talk from Dr David J Harper, Head of University Relations at Google – a role he has had for three years while developing university relationships in Europe.

His talk will explore the social contract between Google, universities and their communities and provide a high-level overview of Google’s approach to building relationships with higher education.

“Google is a bottom-up, engineer-led company and I will describe how this has influenced our programmes of support for universities … our approach to engineering management and communications … and the development of our various communication and social tools including Gmail, Google Docs (now Drive) and Google+,” he explains.

There’s plenty more and a great social programme, as always, which is an excellent way to network and build contacts for the future.