Straight and confidential relations to business life are essential from the perspective of educational institutions. Business life connections give valuable information about the future needs for research and the development of education. With the help of information, the content of teaching can be developed and meet the future needs of working life. Cooperation between education and business is essential and benefits both parties in developing their own operations. Cooperation also provides a competitive advantage over the other actors in the industry.
Alumni are students who have studied at and graduated from the institution. Alumni activities aim to keep up the connection of educational institutions with former students after graduation. Such activities are common, especially in universities. In April 2022, students in Häme University of Applied Sciences, HAMK International Business degree program conducted an Alumni Survey – Report to find out the interest and motivation of HAMK alumni to participate in alumni activities. The needs for operational development in alumni activities were also identified. The research serves as a basis for the development of HAMK’s alumni activities.
Alumni activity is related to leisure activities that are affected by other constraints on work and family life. According to the alumni survey, participation is active in the first years after graduation. A large proportion of graduates create their everyday life and networks outside the place of study. It is normal that over time, the bond with the educational institution is severed, relationships with fellow students are replaced by business related networks and commitment to alumni ends due to other competing activities. Although there is a willingness to participate, the results of the survey showed that lack of time and geographical location of events are significant barriers to participation.
Alumni are the key to new business relationships
As in other stakeholder relations, it is worthwhile in the alumni activities of educational institutions to try to identify committed and motivated alumni to deepen their cooperation. With them can be established ambassador relationships, which can initially be in practice recommendations from an educational institution, lecturer visits, thesis topics and module projects or internships in a company they represent. At its best, alumni cooperation benefits both parties and provides information and helps to identify the future skill or development needs. Based on the co-operation, it is also possible to plan joint RDI activities. Over time, the alumni relationship may even develop into a strategic partnership, with the role of alumni diminishing and the role of the company he or she represents growing. When an alumni changes jobs, he or she opens new partnership opportunities for his or her former university through alumni activities.
Relevance and community increase motivation to participate
Alumni activities are found attractive because of the content that develops professional skills or is otherwise valuable on a personal level. Activities must be regular and well planned to stay attractive. Established event concepts and predictability of activities increase commitment and motivation to participate. Alumni events provide an opportunity to network and meet colleagues in their own field of interest. This way, educational institutions can keep up their own relationships and strengthen networks in business life. When alumni relations deepen, opportunities for research collaboration between the educational institution and companies will improve further. The operations evolve into a partnership that benefits all parties.
The development of alumni activities also requires commitment from the educational institution. It is worth investing in the concepts of alumni events. Successful events pay for themselves back with evolving networks. When conceptualizing events, it is worth paying attention to experientialism and community spirit. Meeting the personal needs of alumni can engage and inspire you to participate in other activities in the future. Recurring events create an expectation value of cohesion, reinforced by a familiar event concept. Alumni expect top-quality content from events that benefit them on a personal level in developing professional skills as well as strengthening network and business conditions or career development. Event concepts must consider the expectations and motives of both parties. Therefore, the goals of the educational institution on the events must also be precisely defined. In virtual events, spontaneous networking is difficult, but they can strengthen alumni relationships by providing a platform for finding new educational opportunities and professional development. On the other hand, the virtual event provides an opportunity to inform about current projects and post graduate learning opportunities, as well as to discuss the needs of business life.
Alumni survey Report discusses the questions of the results of the responses, the authors’ (Amraoui, Dang, Laurila, Savolainen, Tuiskula) interpretations, and recommendations for future development. It is also a tool for HAMK’s alumni relations personnel to make a better investment in existing alumni network.