India trip to ‘hone’ student experience

Published 28/04/2023

The University of Essex recently sent a delegation of its professional services staff to India for a unique immersion trip designed to develop a deeper understanding, knowledge and empathy of the challenges students face from the country.

During a week of activities, staff met with their counterparts at OP Jindal Global University and Bennett University, alongside representatives from The British Council and UK India Business Council.

Staff who travelled to India included the deputy registrar, faculty managers, international marketing and communications staff, student support services managers, accommodation engagement managers and skills for success tutors.

The wide-ranging team were tasked with immersing themselves in the Indian educational experience and culture to gain valuable insights to help improve and enhance the living and learning experience for Indian students joining Essex.

Upon their return, staff will be required to share their learnings with colleagues in professional and academic services in order embed improvements and increase student satisfaction.

“We think we might be the first UK university to undertake such an in-depth visit”

Trip leader and University of Essex deputy registrar, Fraser Keir, said, “We think we might be the first UK university to undertake such an in-depth visit involving such a broad range of professional service staff.”

The University of Essex has longstanding research and education links with India and in recent years has seen exponential growth in applications from Indian students in line with the UK sector as a whole.

“With so many Indian students now joining us at Essex, we felt it was incredibly important for our professional services teams to get a feel for where our new students have come from,” Keir added.

“At Essex we are a family, and we pride ourselves in offering students a home away from home. Things like food, accommodation, learning styles and cultural opportunities are all things that we see as incredibly important parts of the student experience.

“The learning we have gained from this immersion trip will be instrumental in how we hone the student experience for our Indian students.”

Sandeep Sharma, head of operations for the university’s international regional office network, was a driving force behind the trip and spoke about the importance of the trip, saying “India is a continent masquerading as a country, with diverse languages, cultural differences and education systems prevalent across the region.

“India is a continent masquerading as a country”

“It is crucial for professional services and administrative colleagues at Essex get an in-depth understanding of the motivation and background of the students who we’ve recruited over the last few years.

“This trip was the first step in that direction, and it will help in building a real understanding of student motivations and we will use the insights gathered through interactions with stakeholders on the ground to enhance existing student support provision.”

The British Council team in Delhi welcomed the delegation and provided contextual insights into the development of the Indian National Education Policy, India’s economic development and population growth.

The PIE recently reported on rogue agents in India damaging the industry reputation and student experience, and delegates were able to meet with contracted agents and better understand the counselling process and where vulnerable students are susceptible to malpractice.

Vice chancellor of Bennett University’s Noida Campus, Prabhu Kumar, welcomed Essex staff and encouraged them to participate with a question and answers session with his team and share best practice. While international academic exchange is common, the value of immersion activities for professional staff was clearly benefitial.

Vanya Campbell, engagement manager at Accommodation Essex, said, “The expectations of Indian students are quite different to UK students when it comes to accommodation and this trip has been an invaluable chance to learn more about Indian student requirements.

“We’re keen to offer our Indian students a place they can call home and I will be sharing my learning with my team to help us enhance our offer. We are all buzzing with ideas and actions to take back to our teams.”

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