Round up of UKCISA Fest 2021

18 November 2021

What a fantastic three days we have had at #UKCISAFest 2021! It has been a truly packed programme with such insightful and engaging presentations, discussions and thought-provoking content. 

On Monday, at the launch of this year’s #UKCISAFest, we had a wonderful welcome from Reese Chamberlain, one of our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors, our President, Lord Karan Bilimoria and our Chief Executive, Anne Marie Graham. There were some poignant words spoken, such as “International students enrich the experience of our domestic students here in the UK. It’s the students at universities learning from each other, from the different cultures, from the diversity around the world that is just so powerful” from Lord Bilimoria. 

Our first of three Facebook Live sessions took place, with Barry McHale and Gemma Slade from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education delivering an insightful and detailed presentation, highlighting the work that they undertake. Discussion of how the process works and case studies were outlined. The session is available to watch back at any time via Vimeo and Facebook. 

Two of our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors, Anna So and Melody Sequeira, co-hosted a session on the challenges international students have faced during the pandemic. Several topics were discussed, including how they navigated studying, blended learning and their experience of connecting with others.

Our final session of Day 1 of #UKCISAFest 2021 focused on what employers are looking for in the UK, led by Sarah Cooper, alongside Siqi Jia one of our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors. Sarah shared some fantastic advice to international students, including how best to utilise their time to gain relevant employability skills, find ‘hidden’ jobs and network with employers. She further explained what UK employers look for in graduates and shared tips on what international students can do during their time in the UK to enhance their skills for the future. 

Moving to Tuesday, it was yet another day filled with insightful and engaging sessions starting with our second Facebook Live session, led by Rob Young from UKCISA and Siqi Jia, a UKCISA #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador, who detailed several helpful points for international students to know prior to coming to study in the UK. Topics ranged from pre-departure advice and guidance, how life works in the UK and culture shock. The session is available to watch back at any time via Vimeo or on Facebook. 

Two of our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors, Katie Crabtree and Natalja Nassonova, co-hosted a session on the creation of the #WeAreInternational Student Charter which has been produced to encourage education providers to prioritise the international student experience, in line with the ambitions of the International Education Strategy. Discussion of the key priorities of the charter were addressed, which include: creating a welcoming, inclusive and equitable environment for international students in the UK​, embedding international students’ perspective and voices in institutional policy and decision-making,​ and reviewing available support and provision for international students on an ongoing basis. 

Both of our UKCISA Members’ Sessions took place on Tuesday, with the first outlining The International Student Employability Group (ISEG), what the group’s aim is and how it can support international students. Presentations from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) were given, with detailed explanations of how they work with and support international students. The second UKCISA Members’ Session, "Reimagining the International Student Experience" outlined challenges and targets in relation to the #WeAreInternational Student Charter, in order to develop a next draft to take to wider sector consultation. 

"Explore your Students' Union” was a detailed session that discussed the positive change that Students’ Unions can provide and how the speakers have worked strategically within their institutions. Our speakers were Joana Korley, International Students' Officer at the University of Manchester Students' Union, Taylor Ogle, International and Community Officer at the University of Sheffield Students' Union, and UKCISA #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador, Natalja Nassonova. Conversation ranged from their responsibilities in their roles to how Students’ Unions can encourage more students to become involved with what they offer.  

JR Candia and Anna So, two of UKCISA’s #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors, alongside Meg Baker from Students Organising for Sustainability, Jonathan Withey from PlanetMark and Ginelle Greene-Dewasmes, PhD student at the University of York co-hosted a session on climate change, sharing their experiences and the impact on the international student community around the world. Both JR and Anna discussed how climate change has affected their home countries, with Meg, Jonathon and Ginelle detailing specific terminology and what we can do now to help the global crisis. 

Our final day of #UKCISAFest 2021 on Wednesday began with our third Facebook Live session, with Andrew Humphrey and Julie Allen from UKCISA who carefully went through what the Graduate Route is, how to apply for it, an overview of the work that can be done under it and other options that you can consider instead of the Graduate Route. The session is available to watch back at any time via Vimeo or on Facebook. 

In our second session of the day, we were joined by Doug Little and Lewis Savin from the International Student Mental Health Project at University of Nottingham, along with Claudia Yanez, 

#WeAreInternational Student Ambassador at UKCISA. This engaging session focused on International Students & Mental Health, hearing international students’ experiences, outlining what support and resources are available while studying in the UK to support your wellbeing and mental health. It was uplifting to hear such frank discussion of mental health in an open and honest environment. 

In celebration of this year’s International Students' Day, alongside the APPG for International Students, we had a wonderful session discussing the return of the UK’s graduate visa. Our expert panel of students were joined by staff who work in careers and employability and in UK based embassies. Students shared their experiences of work, work-based learning and their hopes for when they graduate. Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, and co-chair of APPG for International Students expressed his thanks in the session: “Thank you to UKCISA for supporting the event today and for bringing together such a great roundtable. It is great to bring together international students today, with a panel of expert speakers to hear about your experiences of higher education and how we can strengthen them and how we can reflect on them as parliamentarians.” 

We have had a thoroughly enjoyable second #UKCISAFest and would like to thank all of our speakers, guests, students and attendees for all their support and participation during this week. All sessions are available to watch again, on-demand via the Cvent platform at any time.