HR and PR professionals' critical role in steering institutional strategy

HR and PR professionals' critical role in steering institutional strategy

Published on 24 July 2014

The ACU hosted its third joint-HRM and PR Network conference at Glasgow University between 13 and 16 July 2014. The four-day event brought together 140 delegates from 26 countries to discuss issues of common importance to human resource and public relations professionals in higher education institutions.

The overall theme, ‘Steering Institutional Strategy – the critical roles of HR and PR’, had speakers examining the role that HR and PR professionals can and should play in helping to articulate and steer institutional strategies. The conference was structured around four sub-themes of internationalisation, the business of higher education, careers in higher education, and the use and impact of social media in higher education.

Within this context, the plenary speakers all focused on addressing issues of relevance and importance to the strategic roles of both HR and PR professionals, whilst break-out sessions were streamed to ensure that there was both an HR- and a PR-related choice at every point. The list of speakers was varied, with influential international practitioners – more than half of whom were women – hailing from 16 different countries.

Dr Jamil Salmi, the former coordinator of the World Bank’s tertiary education programme, set the conference off to a first-rate start with his keynote address on ‘world class universities’. He used the platform to urge delegates not to forget Ernest Boyer’s words of wisdom (words which are close to the ACU’s heart), namely that: “We need a climate in which universities are less imitative, taking pride in their uniqueness. It’s time to end the suffocating practice in which universities measure themselves far too frequently by external status rather than by values determined by their own distinctive mission.”

Professor Simon Marginson, Professor of International Higher Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK, delivered a plenary address on internationalisation. Brooke Young, the Vice-President of Marketing and Advancement at the University of Victoria, Australia, opened the final day of the conference with a talk about how to develop an effective social media strategy for universities. Continuing the theme of communicating to audiences online, the ACU’s Beyond 2015 campaign team also hosted a workshop session focusing on how universities can work with media – both traditional and online – to better communicate the knowledge they produce to wider society.

Delegates took part in lively debates on the competencies required by HR and PR professionals in addressing the challenges facing higher education, as well as the growth of the sector in Asia and the Middle East, the significance of MOOCs, the rise in overseas branch campuses, and the increase in competition to attract international students.

The five winners of the ACU PR, Marketing and Communications Awards 2013 were presented with their trophies at the reception dinner on the Tuesday night. 

These annual awards aim to recognise, encourage, and celebrate the achievements of PR and communications professionals in ACU member universities, and to draw attention to models of good practice.

The stunning Cloisters of the University of Glasgow where the Welcome Reception was held, the Kelvin Gallery’s fusion of modern fittings in a historic building, and the converted church that hosted the reception dinner all proved to be inspired venue choices. In the month that Glasgow plays host to the 20th Commonwealth Games, delegates of the conference previewed what their sporting compatriots would likely experience, having been treated to bagpipers, traditional dancers, meals, and a ceilidh.

This conference marked the conclusion of the ACU’s Centenary-themed activities, which has encompassed the ACU’s Centenary Lecture Series by Sir David King, and the ACU Centenary Conference. Details about the conference, including the programme, speaker list, pictures, and presentations can be found at