The Commonwealth on Campus: perspectives on international student mobility

By Nicky Imrie and Antoinette Seymour

Last week the University of Glasgow’s Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change and the Centre for Research & Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning (CR&DALL) hosted the first major on-campus Commonwealth event of this year. The Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) conference on International Student Mobility focused naturally enough on current trends and challenges, strategies and benefits, and individual and institutional experiences of international student – and staff – mobility. The International Heritage Project’s display of material from the University Archives complemented the conference programme by offering an historical perspective on many of the same themes.


The Alumni Wall

The Alumni Wall

Our tabletop display of student records and publications, photographs and correspondence, commemorative University documents and wall of international alumni highlighting Commonwealth connections made a considerable impact on conference attendees who had come from Glasgow, other HEIs in Scotland, and national and international educational organisations. Responses included ‘impressive’, ‘terrific’ and ‘brilliant’ and several representatives from other universities commented on the inspiring ideas offered for future work on their own institution’s international history. The wall (Antoinette’s fantastic conception!) comprised a selection of illustrated alumni profiles from over 60 Commonwealth countries and territories among others, taken from the International Story website. It was the big draw: viewers searched excitedly for alumni from their country, read intently about these adventurous and pioneering, internationally mobile students of the past and took lots of photographs of and with the historical students’ profiles – is there a hashtag for ‘selfie with historical person’?!

One of the treats of these International Heritage displays is the opportunity of making connections with people via the items on show. For us, the items have a clear connection with the themes of the event; often for event attendees however the connections go much deeper. Just one example of this was when an international alumni name in a student magazine became a real person remembered by a former GU professor, now member of the CEC, who recalled and shared recollections of Bernard K. Laing, the Ghanaian author of a poem published in the Glasgow University Magazine (GUM) in 1968.

This display was the most successful, productive and enjoyable for the International Heritage Project so far and we would like to thank School of Education staff Michele Schweisfurth, Barbara Read, Deirdre Kelly and Tom Young for inviting us and helping to assemble the display.


Categories: Archive Services

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