Authors Katja Mattila, MBA, Planning officer, Lapland UAS in LUC-services (University of Lapland) | Tarja Tammia, M.Sc., Manager in Responsibility in Business and Service Expertise group, Lapland UAS | Orsolya Tuba, BBA, Lapland UAS Alumna and Founder at Finn minta
Engaging alumni is important for higher education institutes as the engagement brings valuable contacts to the working life. Alumni are considered as valuable ambassadors for higher education institutes from which they have graduated. Alumni co-operation can have many forms from loose networking to planned collaboration projects and ventures. This article gives insights in one case of Lapland UAS’ alumni engagement in student recruitment and education marketing abroad.
Lapland UAS has long traditions in alumni relations but the alumni operations have been developed more actively since 2016. All graduated students from Lapland UAS (and from the former Kemi-Tornio UAS and Rovaniemi UAS) are Lapland UAS’ alumni.
Alumni activities generated a pilot case
In the end of 2019 International Business education started a pilot case for student recruitment and education marketing in Hungary with a Hungarian alumna that had already been actively involved in Lapland UAS educational marketing and alumni activities.
The alumni co-operation was seen as an opportunity to develop activities in a mutually beneficial way for both parties. In this pilot case the alumni co-operation has evolved from occasional joint events into a planned co-operation agreement, in which joint marketing activities and goals have been agreed for a year ahead.
Attracting applicants while developing new business
For Lapland UAS the main goal for this pilot case was to study possibilities for student recruitment and increasing awareness of Finnish higher education in Hungary, initially mainly in the Western region of the country. For the alumna the main goal was to develop her own entrepreneurship and create a platform and a community for those interested in Finland’s education and its study opportunities.
During the first contract period in 2020, various marketing events have taken place both live in several Hungarian towns and also online (Picture 1). Student recruitment has involved raising awareness of higher education in Finland, spreading the word about student opportunities in the Lapland region as well as introducing the Finnish culture. To increase the engagement and participation rates, most of these events were organised in Hungarian, and most of them included guest speakers with relevant experience in studying or teaching at Lapland UAS.
Picture 1. Online Infowebinar was arranged first time in spring 2020.
During the same year of cooperation, the alumna has been working on building a brand of her entrepreneurship called Finn minta, which means Finnish model in Hungarian - referring to the educational and social role model that Finland stands for Hungary in many cases. Raising brand awareness about Finn minta and, at the same time, Finnish higher education was crucial, since not many of the students in Hungary considered Finland as an option for their international study opportunities.
Another important step was community building, which meant creating social media groups for those who are interested or have been studying in Finland - including surprisingly many alumni or former exchange students of Lapland UAS. This way, the group members can organically help each other and share their experiences, Finn minta being the main point of contact. A similar online group was designed for the other segment, the teachers and educators, who are interested in practices of the Finnish education system. Teachers mean a great deal of support when it comes to spreading the word about study opportunities, as they can reach a vast student pool.
Successful results motivate to move forward
Nothing can prove the success of the cooperation better than the reached contact points of the applicants. The number of Hungarian applicants applying to Lapland UAS with Finn minta is increasing. The number of participants and views on the webinar recordings promoting Lapland UAS were also outstanding. The webinar series organised to promote Lapland UAS has been a great success, with lots of engagements and interactive conversations.
As for the alumna, we can certainly say that it has been a great journey and opportunity to work with Lapland UAS. She has evolved from being an international marketing trainee at Lapland UAS to a successful entrepreneur living and doing her Master’s in Finland, at the source of her inspiration.
In autumn 2021 Lapland UAS and Finn minta have studied for new possibilities of co-operation for the agreement 2022. The main outcome is that the co-operation will continue with more online and possibly in-person events including a more consultative point of view. Participating at education fairs in Hungary as a representative of Lapland UAS is also part of the short term goals of the cooperation.
As for the long term goals, the cooperation is heading towards increasing the number of alumni cooperation with regards to international student recruitment. The possibilities of extending the co-operation to other universities are under investigation. The established pilot case, alumni co-operation model from International Business education for student recruitment and education marketing, can be modified and duplicated for other education, alumni and other countries as such.
Alumni are great resources for strengthening international relations and marketing. With a little support from the institute, alumni can easily be employed as student recruiters. Being aware of the Finnish HEI, alumni are able to provide specific information about their own experiences. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the co-operation and actions must be profitable and beneficial to both parties in order to keep up the motivation and to achieve the desired results.
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