A new chapter has started for the #WeAreInternational campaign

UKCISA has taken over the successful campaign and its chief executive outlines plans to widen its reach beyond higher education 

November 22, 2019
International students
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This week marks the start of a new phase for #WeAreInternational and its campaign to promote the UK as a welcoming place for international students to study, live and work. 

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has backed the #WeAreInternational campaign since the University of Sheffield set it up in 2016, as part of our mission to promote international students and the benefits of international education.  I have personally supported #WeAreInternational since its inception, when I was leading the UK strategy for outward mobility at Universities UK International. I remember a genuine buzz across the HE sector that Sheffield had taken the lead in organising such a simple, yet progressive and effective, campaign, and I continue even now to flaunt my vintage #WeAreInternational tote bag on tubes, trains and buses as I visit UKCISA members across the UK.

Its importance as a campaign has grown, with research demonstrating that it consistently resonates overseas. It continues to have a global impact, as the 2019 QS International Student Survey demonstrates, with 47 per cent of respondents reporting that the campaign fully persuades them that the UK is welcoming to international students. The research notes that the campaign particularly resonates in the EU, which is of critical importance during the continued uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU. And #WeAreInternational continues to inspire similar campaigns, such as the US higher education sector’s #YouAreWelcomeHere message to prospective international students.  

And it’s not just overseas where the message is important, but here at home on our campuses and in our communities. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s recently published research on racial harassment of students reinforces the need for positive experiences and a range of voices in society. 

In the current context, where our education sector is united in working to maintain our reputation for world-class education, international collaboration and research, and to promote well-being and good mental health in our student population, the narrative around international education and its benefits for all areas of society is increasingly important. We need to ensure that the UK is keeping pace with, and overtaking, our competitors in telling our story.

Taking on the next phase of the #WeAreInternational campaign was a collaborative decision between UKCISA and the University of Sheffield, following consultation with other campaign supporters including the British Council. 

We all wanted to ensure that the campaign was not just able to fulfil its original objectives, but exceed them. We plan to do this by widening the campaign’s reach; bringing on board a range of partners across the education sector to reflect the experience and tell the stories of students; not just in higher education, but further and vocational education, in pathway providers and study abroad programmes. 

With UKCISA’s extensive membership network of all UK universities, 96 colleges, 116 students’ unions and associations, as well as schools and pathway providers, both organisations felt that the time was right to move home.

The campaign is integral to our vision for a superlative international student experience. In early 2020, UKCISA will launch our new strategic plan, with the international student experience at the heart of what we do, and underpinning our strategic objectives. UKCISA recognises, along with our partners across the sector, that international student experience is critical to the success of the future governments’ strategic objectives for international education and to maintain the world-leading reputation of the UK education sector. 

So it’s imperative that we take decisive action to ensure that governments across the UK understand the international students’ perceptions of the UK and its education sector, its immigration system and the value of a UK education.  

Our newly launched #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador programme will provide a mechanism for this, a two-way channel of communication between policymakers in government and institutions, with UKCISA as the conduit. 

We call on all institutions, our partners in government and in the sector, to work with us to develop a series of messages to remind the world that We Are All International.

Anne Marie Graham is chief executive of UKCISA. 

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Reader's comments (1)

Delighted to see this new chapter for #WeAreInternational and want to acknowledge the efforts of generations of student officers and societies at Sheffield who worked with the University to give the campaign its strong student voice, as well as all the people in supporting organisations who picked it up so willingly and backed out efforts on advocacy as well as welcome. It was an example to me that it is not only possible but beneficial to work across institutions, mission groups, types of providers as well as with representative bodies, think tanks, politicians and business bodies. We also had friends within the civil service who responded to genuine efforts and listened where they could. Lots more to do and never more important in the U.K. and overseas, but UKCISA is the right place to do that so thanks to Anne-Marie for seeing that and responding.


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