The University of Reading has captured the attention and hearts of the Twittersphere with its defence of a refugee scholarship and public display of an unapologetically pugnacious attitude.
We've had feedback over the last week that some people are unhappy with our plan to offer up to 14 scholarships to refugees living in the local area. To these people, we would like to say: Tough. Jog on. https://t.co/ioDLPp5crw— Uni of Reading (@UniofReading) July 2, 2018
At a time when universities have found themselves in the middle of a culture war, managing public opinion about their purpose and international activity has become more crucial than ever. Adopting a no-nonsense tone on a public platform might seem a risky strategy, but the tweet, posted on 2 July, has received the type of engagement that most university communications teams only dream of. It has so far garnered 24,000 retweets, 72,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments.
Love it! pic.twitter.com/wz6mKG6rdc— Dr Samantha Pugh (@SamLP) July 2, 2018
Quite possibly the best tweet from any university ever. EVER.— Ibrar Khan (@K_Ibrar) July 3, 2018
Give your Social Media Officer a pay rise!
You are LEGENDS! So much love for this! These refugees will pay this back to you and society in more ways than you can imagine - believe it! You are legends. Thank you x— Nazira (@NaziraBibi) July 3, 2018
It’s boosted pride among the university’s alumni, and it’s even caught the interest of prospective students.
Going to donate to my alma mater on the back of this - speaks louder than endless alumni magazines— David Petts (@DavidPetts1) July 3, 2018
Good work! Proud to be a graduate from @UniofReading— Dr Halit Hulusi (@drhalithulusi) July 3, 2018
You'd be welcome to visit any time!— Uni of Reading (@UniofReading) July 2, 2018
Oh @UniofReading you’re charming me into thinking perhaps my PhD should be with you? Distance no object? Loving your ethos and awesome social media x— Hazel McPhillips (@hazeyfantasy6) July 3, 2018
Beyond the praise for the post’s tenacity and tone, more importantly the tweet has spurred people to support the refugee scholarship scheme or to contribute in some way.
Just donated to support this. Well done for your scholarship programme and response.— Holly Peterson (@hpetersonlondon) July 3, 2018
To be honest, the scholarships team are probably in bed at the moment and we're just the AI which runs the twitter account. Can we get back to you in the morning?— Uni of Reading (@UniofReading) July 2, 2018
Would love to chip in towards books etc, how about a go fund me or similar ?— Gavin Smith (@peanutbr1ttle) July 2, 2018
And it’s raised awareness of programmes that other universities in the UK have developed to aid refugees in their studies.
Nope: https://t.co/uTgf9sSrRA— Uni of Reading (@UniofReading) July 3, 2018
Hi Ekaterina, we have a Sanctuary Scholarship scheme. You can find out more about the scholarships on our website: https://t.co/q3qzHsFjHC— University of Exeter (@UniofExeter) July 3, 2018
Loughborough University (@lborouniversity) July 3, 2018
We are, you can see our scholarships for refugee, humanitarian protection and asylum-seeking students in the UK here: https://t.co/SC2tLtvUHP— University of Warwick (@warwickuni) July 4, 2018
The post received criticism, of course – this was Twitter after all – but the university managed to respond to disapproving messages in a timely and appropriate way. Or, more often, fans of the tweet did it for them.
Mmm, whatever the rights and wrongs of this debate I don’t feel this is a suitable tweet from a professional institution!— Lisa (@LisaTulips) July 2, 2018
You’re missing the point! I’ve clearly stated it’s not about the content, it’s the crass language used. “Jog on” - lovely! I am a parent of a student at the U o R and neither she nor any of her friends speak like that.— Lisa (@LisaTulips) July 2, 2018
Respectfully, I don't think you've been around any University students lol - if 'jog on' was mayonnaise, I can assure you that university students always eat their food with spicy masala.— Mielad (@Afghangster) July 2, 2018
Victoria Pearson, head of corporate communications at the university, said that the institution tailors its messages to suit the platforms they’ll be communicated on.
“It is no secret that a less formal tone often works better on social media, and the more conversational style the corporate communications team adopts on channels like Twitter is a deliberate method of broadening our reach,” she told Times Higher Education. “In the case of this tweet, the language reflected that we are proud and unapologetic about our refugee scholarship scheme, which adds to similar schemes offered by universities around the country.”
The tweet’s engagement, she said, has also helped to remind people who might not otherwise interact with the university what Reading is doing to serve the community while still acting globally. “We are really encouraged by the number of people who have expressed their support for this scheme, as well as our other scholarships and bursaries supporting students from a range of backgrounds,” she said. For one follower, it was evidence of the university’s mission to do social good, suggesting that more institutions should consider telling the haters to “jog on”.
Good for you. For the University and those who suggested it, supported it and made it possible. This country needs more people like you. Thank you for reminding people that good things are still being done and that good people can stand behind their convictions.— Tim Butler #FBPE (@butl55314456) July 2, 2018