Beer, wine and buffets in five-star hotels and exclusive clubs. In the hunt for new students from China and USA, the alumni association at Lund University display their generous side. But how you evaluate if this was money well spent is not clear.
It’s May 27th and the venue is a conference room in the five star hotel Swissôtel Beijing. 71 guests are loading their plates with smoked salmon with lemon mayonnaise and foccacia to go with chicken liver mousse and fig chutney. The variety of guests range from gender studies researchers to physicians and they have a common denominator: Lund University. It is the alumni association of Lund University who have invited former potential students to an evening of networking and mingling.
“We didn’t have very much”
When the Lund University alumni association was founded about 10 years ago, it was a pretty humble organization only issuing two magazines from the University per year.
“We didn’t have very much”, says Margareta Nordstrand, Head of Sector at the External Relations division. When tuition fees for non-European students were introduced in 2011, the University saw their chance to expand the alumni association. By being more active abroad the aim was to get alumni around the world to become ambassadors for the University. The idea was to have them talking positively about Lund University with people in their network and thus attract new students. In October of 2010, the first alumni gathering was held in Shanghai.
A Vague Evaluation
Organizing alumni gatherings with canapé and champers costs money. 258 523 SEK for the 11 events paid for by the University up to this point. And this doesn’t include the University taff’s hotel and travelling expenses. Therefore, the alumni association tries to make things more efficient by planning meetings in places where staff from the University is already located.
But whether this strategy resulting is resulting in more contributory students attending Lund University or not is not clear. The alumni organization doesn’t have any clear stats of the amount of students having begun to study after the alumni gatherings, but the organization claims that a few students have called for a gathering in Bangkok.
“We don’t have any quantative aim with our alumni organization yet. We have to develop this network and listen to our alumni before we can setup any concrete goals. But we would like at least 3,000 of the graduates at Lund University this year to join the alumni network, says Richard Stenelo, Deputy Head of Sector at the External Relations division and responsible for the alumni organization.
“If one single solitary student reapplies or gets somebody else to apply for Lund University after an alumni gathering, we have gained from it”, he says.
The interest from alumni around the world has also varied. At the gathering in New York September 3rd in 2011, 85 people came, but in Taipei in October this year attendance was down to 13. However, Margareta Nordstrand does not believe that high attendance is what makes the events great.
“I can honestly say that I’m thrilled if 7 people show up if these 7 individuals are interested in joining us, she says.
Despite the uncertainty about the effects of the alumni gatherings, Vice-Chancellor Per Eriksson supports the organization. He believes that a newly established organization is allowed to try its way through and he is not concerned about the difficulties of evaluating the gatherings.
“There are always issues when trying to measure success in marketing. But we measure the total development of the University at our strategy meetings in June, says Per Eriksson.
Text Sebastian Hagberg / Carl-Johan Kullving
Translation: Maximilian Aleman Tennell
Grafik: Henrik Larsson