Runner-up to Financial Times blogger Jane Bird in the Outstanding Online Education Commentary section of the UK’s Education Journalism Awards is no mean feat after a year-and-a-half blogging on this website.

So, you can imagine my delight when the chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Education and Skills Group, Louise Jaggs, read out my name at the Awards night in the House of Commons dinning room.

I submitted three of my blogs for consideration by the judges – and when I saw that those shortlisted included well-established education bloggers from the FT, Huffington Post, The Guardian and Nottingham University, I thought De la Cour Communications had done well to get well to get to the finals at first attempt.

Central theme

My entries were focused on the the central theme of the website – trying to encourage more British students to study abroad and supporting those in UK HE who want to engage more closely with Europe (as well as the wider world).

The Online award and the ‘Most Promising Newcomer to Education to Education Journalism Award’ were both sponsored by the Nationwide Building Society – and the picture shows me with Claire Jones, from The Plymouth Herald, who won that award.

We were both praised for the quality of our writing – and it was a great joint celebration. For I started out on a regional evening paper as a journalist and went on to specialise on business and industry before moving into press and public relations with a polytechnic about to leave local authority control and soon become a university.

Back to the future

Now, I feel that this website and my blogging and writing for EUPRIO and University World News – and for clients like Sweden’s Linköping University – has allowed me to go back to the future with a new form of far more interactive journalism.

When I left full-time mainstream journalism for higher education in the nineties, it was a time of great upheaval for UK universities.

Today, the sector is going through what may turn out to be even greater transformation as state-funding is replaced by student-funding for teaching and British universities are hurled at ever greater speed into the world of marketisation.

Full-time undergraduate higher education has survived more or less intact, even if the situation with part-timers and postgraduates is much less certain. We’re living through a time when there’s certainly plenty to write about.

More outward-looking

My central message when I began blogging early in 2012 was that British higher education and students need to be more outward-looking and forge closer links with our near neighbours in Europe. It is a message that has a gathered a head of steam with the launch of the UK’s outward student mobility strategy and support from Universities minister, David Willetts.

Key funding has also been secured for the European Union’s relaunched Erasmus+ student mobility initiative in time for the New Year and I’m optimistic about the future.

So, many thanks to the CIPR for recognising what I’ve been saying about the need for British HE to raise its sights beyond national boundaries. We may be an island, but our students need to think globally, and everything that can be done, should be done to encourage more home students to study abroad – whether on a student exchange through Erasmus+, or full-time on a master’s degree in another country.

China is often praised these days for understanding the value of its best students gaining international experience. Britain is sadly too inward-looking these days. It could benefit greatly if more of its talented young people widened their horizons, particularly when it comes to European engagement, and studied abroad for a year or two.

Main pic: Nic Mitchell, with Claire Jones, at the CIPR Education Journalism Awards 2013

Nic Mitchell, alias EuprioNic

Founder of De la Cour Communications.


My three blogs for the CIPR Awards:

* Getting more UK students to study abroad: One of the first interviews given by Anne-Marie Graham, head of the UK HE Higher Education International Unit’s new Outward Student Mobility programme – a government-backed initiative to encourage British students to study abroad. A version of this blog was followed-up and published by University World News

* Implications for European student mobility of the EU’s Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ budget settlements

* Personal story of a British student, George Leech, of studying abroad and background to the Swedish higher education system