UKCISA Annual conference 2023 kicked off on Wednesday 29 June in Cardiff, with over 400 attendees joining us in person for three days of panels and talks from industry professionals.
After the opening of our conference exhibition and a welcome session for newcomers, where UKCISA Advice & Training Officer Robert Young led an orientation workshop, we opened the conference with a special welcome from UKCISA Chief Executive Anne Marie Graham. Our opening plenary focused on the international education agenda in Wales with Ruth Cocks, Director of British Council Wales, Walter Brooks, Programmer Manager at Taith, and Kieron Rees, Assistant Director of Universities Wales.
Describing the importance of UKCISA Annual conference, Anne Marie said “It's always timely because it's always fast-moving,” before kindly thanking our opening plenary sponsors, Duolingo English Test. Ruth, Walter and Kieron went on to share their insights and experiences of working in the international education sector in Wales, with Walter taking a moment to reflect on Taith, Wales’ international learning exchange program saying “It's really encouraging to see what we all know - the impact of international student mobility on students and staff.” Kieron highlighted the key ambitions of Universities Wales, stating that “We need to preserve the Graduate route - that's our number one priority.”
After the panel spent some time answering audience questions, our opening plenary came to a close and we moved on to the Say my name session, led by UKCISA Director of Member Services and Policy, Julie Allen. This session was run on behalf of the University of Warwick, who established this project, which explores good practice in learning names with international students and in our community. In the process, delegates were able to ask questions of one another, socialise, get to know each other better, and learn more about each other’s names, including their meanings, origins and the feelings behind them.
The rest of the afternoon focused on an exploration and celebration of the #WeAreInternational campaign and our student ambassadors. Firstly, conference delegates had the opportunity to meet our student ambassadors and ask them any questions they had, while also being able to hear first-hand about the tremendous work they put in and their outstanding commitment to the #WeAreInternational values, as highlighted across our recently re-launched campaign, and our student charter, which was launched at last year’s UKCISA Annual conference. Following this, to close out the first day of the conference, we came together for a celebratory drinks reception, marking one year since we launched the #WeAreInternational Student Charter and 10 years since the launch of #WeAreInternational. The reception featured speeches from Anne Marie Graham, #WeAreInternational founder Ruth Arnold, and #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador Sára Kozáková, with the event being book-ended by some very special Welsh entertainment from Cardiff Male Choir.
After an excellent start to proceedings, we couldn’t have said it any better ourselves!