Lets think of an apple - a blog about communication and international strategies for universities

Let’s think of an apple

Finding individuality amongst homogeneity. John Simmons explores how communication influences higher education’s approach to international strategies. A story inspired by a can of apple juice.


Flying to America the other week to run a writing workshop, I was served with a can of ‘100% Apple Juice’. Looking more closely at the ingredients I read: ‘Contains Apple Juice Concentrate from the USA, Argentina, Chile, China and Turkey’.

Universities today are acutely aware that they operate in a global environment. A brief scan of your university’s library shelves can take you around the world and back. Working on the identity of The British Library some years ago I came up with the line ‘The World’s Knowledge’.

When thinking of how to communicate with international students – from far away or close to home – it’s important to recognise the contribution to the melting pot that these different students make. But it’s even more vital to see each of them as an individual with a distinct personality. Each one different but each one sharing a common humanity to which we can all relate.

You need to show humanity through a sense of individual personality in your words rather than the bland persona of a corporate institution.

That creation of a relationship is the essential task of communication, and particularly of communication in writing. You need to show humanity through a sense of individual personality in your words rather than the bland persona of a corporate institution. To reach out through words created by you so that an individual – who might be based in Bolton or Boston or Beijing – can feel that you share interests, emotions and needs. Not to homogenise people but to engage in one-to-one communications even while actually being in touch with thousands.

It can be done. Not only can it be done, it works better when done in this way. Think of it as an apple with its own colour, texture and flavour rather than 100% juice concentrate.


Higher education has a long and strong history of seeking out the opportunities of international endeavours – whether this is delivering trans-national education, working with international students and staff, or creating satellite campuses across the globe. This short blog prompts a moment to reflect on communication: vital to championing your international strategy, it has an important and influential role to play.

John Simmons is a Programme Facilitator at Invisible Grail, author of our namesake The Invisible Grail, and champion of the idea ‘words matter’.

Published Thursday 19 October 2017

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