Stuart Easter is the head of international partnerships and student recruitment at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. He was recently elected to the BUILA Executive, giving him more opportunities to work on impactful projects across the UK sector. Easter shares with The PIE ups and downs of working in a sector with an ever-changing landscape.
How did you find yourself working in intled?
My role at Edinburgh Napier expands beyond international these days (including domestic recruitment and widening participation), but I cut my teeth in international recruitment in the further education sector after returning from a series of transformative international career experiences over 15 years ago including a year living in China.
Like many in this sector, I was originally drawn to the role for the chance to travel to new places and experience new cultures at the same time as promoting opportunities for students to gain their own transformative experiences within the UK higher education sector. I was lucky in my first recruitment role because it wasn’t defined by a single region, so I was able to spend time in places as varied as Hong Kong, Nigeria, Brazil, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brunei and the UAE.
What do you like most about your job?
The variety. Working in a university, and specially having an international remit, means that there is always something going on. Change is exciting, and the fact that priorities can change from one week to the next (or overnight!) keeps me on my toes.
“Working in a university, and specially having an international remit, means that there is always something going on”
This is where my job intersects within some of my dull hobbies, such as keeping up with national and international politics, and reading the news! Whilst HE works on an annual calendar, it feels as though no two years of my career have been the same, and I feel incredibly lucky not to be bored by ‘going to work’.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change?
The variety! Whilst exciting, the sheer volume of change that we have to address in these roles verges on chaotic. It would probably be better for my health if we had a year or two of predictable policy, stable exchange rates, calm geopolitics and fewer global pandemics.
What are your top 5 priorities?
- Making sure my team are engaged, satisfied and motivated to do a great job
- Ensuring we have solid operational plans to achieve our targets
- Investing in great customer service, continuously improving the applicant experience
- Keeping in touch with senior stakeholders for our work, internally and externally
- Planning for the future, building in resilience and opportunities for growth
Tell me about a defining moment in your career
I had been interested in a career in education in some way for a long time (my mum was a teaching assistant in a primary school and I heard lots of stories about the impact she made on peoples’ lives) and my first formal opportunity came when I was applying for a master’s degree. I found a fantastic program in Edinburgh that brought together my undergraduate skills in computing with my interests in education.
The student experience was so different from my undergraduate and I felt so supported to succeed. The research phase of my dissertation included a visit to Ghana to interview people who had been investing in education projects for many years and this work led me to want to understand more about the value people place on education. Shortly after submitting my project I moved to China for a year to work on a British Council project and this gave me an incredible opportunity to experience a new culture, learn a new language and inspire me to seek out a career in the internationalisation of education.