Pakistan to the Palace to receive Royal reward

ASHRAF Jawaid came to the UK from his native Pakistan in 1979 to study engineering.

Three decades later he’s behind an extraordinary success story at the University of Bedfordshire that saw him shaking hands and exchanging words with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Luton-based University has been celebrating a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, won this year for its success in wooing students from as far afield as China and India, Nigeria and Pakistan and bringing millions of pounds into the local economy.

Just three years ago its income from overseas students was less than £10m.

This year it topped £35m. There are now 4,250 overseas students at the five Bedfordshire campuses, plus another 2,500 studying abroad at partner institutions – but doing the University’s courses and working towards its degrees.

Professor Jawaid, the deputy vice-chancellor responsible for external relations, said: “We work very closely with partners overseas. That helps us market ourselves, using their channels to get into schools and raise awareness of the University.

“We put a lot of effort into ensuring a good student experience because to us they are customers and big ambassadors for us when they go back home. Repeat business from friends, cousins, brothers and sisters is very important.

“We listen to the market and create what it wants. Once we’d visit countries like the Bahamas and Mauritius, now we’re concentrating on much bigger markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. For every trip we set targets and we review these once a month. If the market is shifting we change the targets.”

The University has close links with the British Council and Embassies abroad and is looking to work with UK Trade & Investment to spread its message wider. And as part of its commitment to business, innovation and growth, it is a member of the new South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.

Bedfordshire’s Knowledge Hub is the umbrella for clinics, courses, events and facilities for established companies, start-ups and would-be business people. And a new Enterprise Society, starting this autumn, will promote business awareness among students.

Professor Carsten Maple, heading Bedfordshire’s research and enterprise work, said: “We are seeking now to raise business awareness among young people. Education is not just about certificates. It is about extra learning, developing people.

“There are many good ideas within universities. We want to harness them.”

And international students will gain an extra insight from Ashraf Jawaid’s latest initiative. He is aiming to place 1,500 students in internships during the next academic year – providing experience of how Britain works that will be highly valued when they go back home.

The University of Bedfordshire won an International Trade award for its success in increasing income from abroad by more than 150 per cent in three years, and earnings of £54 million over that period. The University has five campuses including Luton and Bedford and attracts students from more than 100 countries making up more than a third of the total number.