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Amsterdam, 17 May 2016

Master’s level education in Europe – Towards a comprehensive approach from recruitment to graduation


In the post-Bologna era, the introduction of the two-tier structure of study programs and degrees opened a new stage of development for international higher education on the ‘old continent’. At a time when internationalisation was moving from the periphery of institutional activity to the heartland of institutional action and strategy, and when the international mobility of students was becoming a real mantra, the newly-introduced (in most countries) Master’s level became a new gateway into the higher education systems of most European countries, opening a new wave of international and internal (intra-country) student mobility.

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of the Master’s level in many European countries was rapidly followed by the establishment of similar programs in English, particularly in countries with not so widely spoken languages, English becoming rapidly the lingua franca of international higher education. In the past 15 years, the European higher education system saw an unprecedented development of study programs, initially partly and now mostly fully-taught in the English language, from roughly 700 programs in the early 2000s to an estimate of roughly 8 000 in 2014, according to three surveys of English-Taught Programs (ETPs) conducted by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), between 2001 and 2014.

These changes were rapidly followed by an increase and professionalisation of marketing and student recruitment activities by European universities, especially at Master’s level, and by important changes in the admission practice, students’ services, marking also the start of alumni relations in most European higher education institutions. Yet, while significant efforts and resources have been and are invested in these activities, anecdotal evidence tells us that in most higher education institutions in Europe, and not only, these related activities, which are carried out by separate units at university level are rarely in sync with each other. 

This one-day seminar, which will take place on 17 May 2016 in Amsterdam, will explore the need to have a comprehensive approach at Master’s level, by strategically and systematically linking marketing practices with admissions requirements, student services and alumni relations (i.e. creating a link between processes that are at present disconnected in many, if not most, European universities).

Prompted by experienced speakers and fascinating case examples from Europe and the United States of America, the participants will

· look into and debate the challenges of establishing a comprehensive approach at Master’s level,

· explore and share experiences on how to be successful in marketing, admissions and student services at the Master’s level, and

· brainstorm on how to develop sound links between these different activities, i.e. develop what is called in the US higher education context - ‘Graduate Enrolment Management (GEM)’

To find out more about the event, explore the Programme and the Speakers pages.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016


Venue: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – Auditorium, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam



Registrations and coffee


Welcome and introduction

A.J. (Albert) Feilzer, Dean of the Academic Dentistry Centre Amsterdam (ACTA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & University of Amsterdam

Irina Ferencz, Deputy Director, ACA


Why focus on the Master’s level? Overview and challenges in building a comprehensive approach

Key figures and trends in Master’s level education in Europe – Bernd Wächter, Director, ACA

The European disconnect at Master’s level? – Linda Johnson, Executive Secretary, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam  

A view from the graduate education context in the United States – Joshua LaFave, Director of the Center for Graduate Studies for the State University of New York at Potsdam; Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo  


Coffee break


Parallel sessions: recruitment, admissions & services (round 1)

Session 1: Student recruitment at Master’s level – DOs and DON’Ts

Chair: Marija Mitic, Project Officer, ACA


How to successfully market Master’s programs? – Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo 

Marketing at the Master’s level – Recruitment channels & Case of China – Xiaohong Tong, Director VUB China Network, Manager Marketing & Recruitment Non-EEA at International Relations & Mobility Office, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

International Marketing and Admissions: an integrated approachDora Longoni, Head of International Projects Service, Politecnico di Milano 

Session 2: Admissions at Master’s level – current European practice and outlook

Chair: Irina Ferencz, Deputy Director, ACA


Guiding tools for comprehensive admissions at Master’s level – Mastermind Europe projectKees Kouwenaar, Senior Advisor International Strategy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Standardised tests in admissions in European Universities: the use of the TOEFL® and GRE® TestsMavi Calabrese, Academic & Government Relations Director, ETS Global representative

Virtual assessment of foreign qualifications in SwedenJohn Evans & Elisabeth Sundelin, Swedish Council for Higher Education

Session 3: Services for Master’s students

Chair: Bernd Wächter, Director, ACA


What do Master’s students need?Lea Meister, Vice-Chairperson, European Students’ Union (ESU) 

Student Services in a GEM ModelJoshua LaFave, Director of the Center for Graduate Studies for the State University of New York at Potsdam 

European good practice examplesElspeth Jones, Emerita Professor of International Education, Leeds Metropolitan University 


Lunch break (sandwich lunch)


Parallel sessions: recruitment, admissions & services (round 2)

Session 1: Student recruitment at Master’s level – DOs and DON’Ts

Chair: Marija Mitic

Speakers: Christopher Connor,  Xiaohong Tong, Dora Longoni

Session 2: Admissions at Master’s level – current European practice and outlook

Chair: Irina Ferencz

Speakers: Kees Kouwenaar, Mavi Calabrese, John Evans & Elisabeth Sundelin

Session 3: Services for Master’s students

Chair: Bernd Wächter

Speakers: Lea Meister, Joshua LaFave, Elspeth Jones


Coffee break


Panel discussion: A comprehensive approach at the Master’s level in Europe – how do we get there?

Moderator: Kees Kouwenaar, Senior Advisor International Strategy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Linda Johnson

Joshua LaFave, Christopher Connor

Elspeth Jones

Julie Anderson, Policy Officer – Higher Education, Directorate-General for         Education     and Culture, European Commission




End of seminar



Irina Ferencz

Irina Ferencz is Deputy Director at the Brussels-based Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), a mainly European umbrella organisation, which brings together national-level agencies from many European countries that act as higher education internationalisation vectors in and for the respective higher education systems. Irina’s main interests and expertise are in the fields of international student mobility (both quantitative and qualitative analyses) and in internationalisation policies at the university and national level, including the assessment of internationalisation via indicators and the internationalisation of the curriculum.

Irina holds a Bachelor (License) in International Relations and European Studies of Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and a Master in European Politics and Policies (magna cum laude) of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Irina speaks Romanian (mother tongue), English, French, Italian and some German. She also reads Spanish and is learning ‘Larish’, a language of the under-two-year-olds. 

Bernd Wächter

Bernd Wächter is the Director of the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA). He studied at the universities of Hull (UK), Giessen and Marburg (Germany). His career has been focused on international higher education. He worked for the University of Kassel, the British Council, and the Fachhochschule Darmstadt, before joining The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as the head of their EU division. He subsequently became the director for Higher Education (Erasmus) in the Brussels Socrates Office. In 1998, he took up his present post as ACA Director.

Bernd Wächter has published and lectured widely on international higher education. He is the editor of the ACA Papers on International Cooperation in Education. He has been the team leader of ACA’s research projects and speaks frequently at major governmental and stakeholder conferences, in Europe and beyond, on the issue of mobility and internationalisation.  

Bernd Wächter has two children. He is married to Thora Magnusdottir, a delightful lady from Iceland.

Linda Johnson

Linda Johnson is currently the Executive Secretary at ISS/EUR within the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. ISS is an international graduate school specialising in development studies.

Linda studied Comparative Literature in the UK and later completed an MBA. She has worked in England, Nigeria, Germany and the Netherlands. She has been involved in international relations in higher education since 1988, holding a variety of posts in the field, including Head of International Office, Head of Educational Affairs, Director of an American Study Abroad Programme and Head of International Relations.

Linda has been active in the EAIE since its inception and has served as President of the association. She currently chairs the board of the Anti-discrimination Council for the city of Amsterdam, where she lives. She speaks and writes regularly on topics pertaining to the internationalisation of Higher Education and on diversity.

Joshua LaFave

Joshua LaFave is the Executive Director of the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education at the State University of New York at Potsdam in Potsdam, NY, USA.  His experience for the past 11 years has included a comprehensive canvas of Graduate Enrollment Management functions. These roles have included enrollment planning, marketing and recruitment, admissions, student services, retention, advising/coaching and career planning. In his current role, he is responsible for all elements of the graduate student lifecycle, as well as the college’s special sessions, early college programs, non-credit offerings, and conferences/special programs. His research on Graduate Enrollment Management includes the adoption of the integrated interdependence model in GEM, working definitions, the four “O’s” of student services, and holistic strategic enrollment management planning.

Christopher Connor

Christopher Connor is the Assistant Dean for Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).  His experience for the past 19 years has included leadership roles in Undergraduate and Graduate Education both from an institutional and academic unit perspective. In his current role, his position focuses strategically on all aspects of the graduate student lifecycle including new program/curriculum development, recruitment and enrollment planning, fellowships/scholarships leveraging, diversity programs, data reporting, student services/professional and career development for graduate students and alumni engagement. Most recent to his current role, Chris served as UB’s Assistant Dean for Graduate Enrollment Management Services providing leadership and coordination to the graduate school recruitment, admissions and enrollment processes which assisted the university in consistently achieving its enrollment goals. 

Last year, Chris served in a dual role as Interim Director of Undergraduate Admissions where he oversaw efforts that led to a 6% increase in first-time freshman enrollment to near record high enrollment levels while maintaining quality and enhancing diversity.

Chris’s education includes both bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as completing his Ph.D. coursework work, all at UB.

Chris’ research interest focuses on graduate education advocacy, Strategic Graduate Enrollment Management (SGEM) and the importance of the interplay between student retention and recruitment. Chris has received several national awards and distinctions as well published and presented both nationally and internationally on numerous topics related to Graduate Education. 

Kees Kouwenaar

Kees Kouwenaar is senior advisor international strategy at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (since 2012), where he also was director of the Centre for International Cooperation (2008-2012). He was responsible for a new comprehensive internationalisation strategy and a reorganised comprehensive VU International office. He currently is coordinating the Mastermind Europe project, which is developing and testing a Toolkit for master’s admission for a diverse and international classroom. He also runs a Training Course on Internationalisation & research and various other projects and edits a biweekly Newsletter International Strategy.

Before 2008, he held senior management positions in legal development cooperation, HE internationalisation and credential evaluation. At Nuffic, where he worked for 20 years, his main focus was on recognition of diplomas and degrees: He  was lead expert, workshop chair and final rapporteur for the Lisbon Recognition Convention of 1997. He served as chairman of the NARIC network and EAIE´s professional section for admission& credential evaluation. Kees has presented/chaired at numerous conferences in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.

Marija Mitic

Marija Mitic is Project Officer at ACA. She began her work at ACA as a trainee in March 2014 and then joined the team in her current position. She has since been involved in several ACA projects and European Policy Seminars. Before joining ACA, Marija was a trainee at the European Commission, in the International Cooperation and Programmes Unit of DG EAC.

While still in her native country, Serbia, Marija worked as an intercultural trainer and language teacher. She is a certified youth worker with international experience in youth leadership and adult learning. She is an Erasmus Mundus Alumna with a Master’s Degree in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management from Aarhus University, Denmark and Universidad de Deusto, Spain.

Xiaohong Tong

Xiaohong Tong is director of the VUB China Network and has been responsible for marketing and recruitment for non-EEA regions at the International Relations & Mobility Office of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) since 2010. She has contributed to the strategic planning of international marketing and recruitment for VUB, as well as to the collaboration policy with China. She is currently developing new and managing various established scholarship programmes on Master and PhD level aimed at hosting students from partner universities. She has initiated and is overlooking various on-going joint programmes with partner universities for recruitment purpose and creating win-win situations on both sides. In addition to that, Xiaohon has also coordinated many China related projects at VUB, as well as negotiated scholarship and funded project with partners and governmental institutions.

Before 2010, she worked as project manager at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies at VUB, which is now converted to the Brussels Academy of China and European Studies (BACES) with increased partners from both Europe and China. Xiaohong remains involved in their operations as a member of Executive Board.

Dora Longoni

Dora Longoni is Head of the International Projects Service at Politecnico di Milano, and Project Manager of the Alta Scuola Politecnica (ASP). In her role, she is in charge of international marketing and recruitment, credential evaluation and international admissions for MSc and PhD students, international agreements, strategic partnerships and networks, and the promotion and management of EU funded projects with third countries. She has been working in the field of international relations at the Politecnico di Milano since 1996. In these years, she has been active as a Conference presenter in international Conferences, as a Trainer in various EAIE Training Courses on International Strategic Enrolment Management, International Master Degree Admissions, etc., and as a lecturer on internationalisation within the Master in Management of University and Research of MIP-Politecnico di Milano. EAIE Board Member from 2012 to 2014, at present she is a member of the EAIE Conference Programme Committee (2014-2017).

Lea Meister

Lea Meister was born in 1986 in Schaffhausen Switzerland. She has a Master degree in Eastern European History and Slavic Languages from the University of Basel in Switzerland. She currently studies Educational Sciences. Lea has been active in the student movement since 2009, has served as a policy officer at the Students’ Union of the University of Basel and as the International Officer of the Swiss Students’ Union. 

After being a member of the Executive Committee of the European Students’ Union (ESU), she is its current Vice-Chair since July 2015. Within ESU, she has mainly been working on the social dimension of and public responsibility for education, where she did not only analyse the links between the two mentioned topics, but also assessed the students’ view about the social dimension in their countries.  Lea also enjoys summer, the sea, mountains and reading in several languages.

Elspeth Jones

Elspeth Jones is Emerita Professor of the Internationalisation of Higher Education, Leeds Beckett University and Honorary Visiting Fellow, Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, (CHEI) Milan.  Her specialisms include personal, professional and employability outcomes from international mobility, strategic leadership, internationalisation of the curriculum at home and abroad, global citizenship, the student experience and intercultural competence development for staff and students. She has published widely and is series editor for the Routledge book series, Internationalization in Higher Education. Elspeth’s recent published research includes employability skills development in transnational education and student learning outcomes from international mobility. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of CHEI, Milan and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Studies in International Education. She is Visiting Professor at several European universities. In 2014 Elspeth received the EAIE Award for Excellence in Research. 

María Victoria Calabrese

María Victoria Calabrese currently works as Academic & Government Relations Director at ETS Global based in Amsterdam. She is responsible for the TOEFL® and GRE® tests outreach, as well as relationship development with higher education policy organisations, government agencies, business schools worldwide, with an emphasis on Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She started in ETS in 2007 and she has also worked for two years at the ETS office in Paris. 

Before joining ETS, Mavi has worked at the Cultural Affairs section of the US Embassy to Argentina and as a Researcher on EU the US and Latin American Higher Education Policy at OBREAL in University of Barcelona. Mavi has also worked at the European Commission in Brussels and in Human Resources in the private sector for 5 years. Mavi holds a B.A in Political Science at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and she holds an M.A in International Relations at Università degli studi di Bologna, Italy.

John Evans

John Evans is production manager and leads and organizes the work in the Virtual Organization at The Swedish Council for Higher Education. His career has been in admissions; starting with admissions to Upper Secondary School in the Stockholm local council. Before managing productions in his current position he was an active evaluator of foreign credentials for the Swedish universities. His areas of expertise have been parts of Asia, Europe and the USA. John is also on the editorial board for student information on the Council’s web sites. He has studied sociology and urban planning at the Stockholm University. During the long Scandinavian winters, John Evans can be found leading ice-skating excursions in the weekends, on the frozen lakes around Stockholm. John Evans is married to Marie a doctor of Nephrology and has two children. As a family they are about to move from Sweden to go and live in Bristol, England for a year.

Elisabeth Sundelin

Elisabeth Sundelin works at the Swedish Council for Higher Education, in the office for Process Coordination. At the Council she has worked in a number of fields. Now managing the Virtual Organization of foreign credential evaluators at Swedish universities, and previously having worked with management of the admissions process for Swedish applicants, she has been one of the architects of the model with shared competences at HEI:s across Sweden. 

Elisabeth holds a Master of Social Science in Human Geography from Stockholm University and she has a special interest in gender and geography. Elisabeth Sundelin lives with her tennis playing family of five next to a big forest close to Stockholm city. 

Julie Anderson

Julie Anderson is a policy officer in the European Commission’s higher education policy team in DG Education and Culture.  In this role, she contributes to the Commission’s modernisation agenda for higher education, with specific responsibility for the development of policies on anti-radicalisation, the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, digital and open learning and links between higher education and research.  

Prior to this role, Julie worked for the Irish Department of Education and Skills, most recently as the Education and Skills Attaché in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, in which role she was Chair of the EU’s Education Committee during the Irish EU Presidency and led the negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission on Erasmus+.   She is also a former Vice-Chair of the OECD’s Education Policy Committee.  

In previous roles, Julie was Private Secretary to Ireland’s first Minister for Integration and also worked as a diplomat, serving as Deputy Head of Mission in the Irish Embassy in Switzerland.

Julie holds degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University, and has worked in several European countries, as well as in Dubai and New York.  


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – VU University Amsterdam

Auditorium, Hoofdgebouw, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam