Meet The CEO

Professor Ray Priest, Managing Director of UWE International Educational Services

UWE International Educational Services Sdn Bhd was registered in 2018. The company has over 80 employees operating in 14 Asia Pacific countries with eight offices in major locations. Formed from a former representative office for the recruitment of students to the university, UWE Bristol, in the UK, the company now spans five divisions working in promoting and delivering educational opportunities and lifelong learning activities across the whole region. Our presence in Malaysia came about because we first laid our foundations for international education in the country and have seen it to be an ideal hub for transforming our work across the region.

What are some of your organisation’s proudest moments/milestones in Malaysia?

When formed, the company had a small number of employees, and this has expanded rapidly and continues to grow as does our funding base. We have been able to grow our recruitment for the UK by 200% and in addition, now offer support to over 7000 UWE students studying in the region. We have also grown our provision in the region and last year over 8000 students from around the region engaged in support courses with us to enhance opportunities for studying in the UK.

The company now has been able to achieve 30% as self-funding to make it less dependent on university grants and has been able to develop five operating divisions. One of our proudest achievements has been to work on social responsibility projects that have allowed us to support children born onto the streets in some countries within the region to access education and with the provision of scholarships each year to university.

Describe your operations and total investments in Malaysia/ the UK (value, staff strength, etc.) to date.

We remain a relatively small operation within Malaysia but one that is servicing significant income for the university in the UK. Each year we generate some £40m annually of business for the UK and if we project the income from those who are still studying in the UK, this grows to over £60m.

Within Malaysia, our turnover is much smaller but still supports over 80 employees. We employ recruiters, finance officers, administrators, lawyers, graphic designers, social media experts, admission officers, data analysts and teachers to name but a few of the skill sets. As an organisation committed to learning, we are necessarily people-centric and do our utmost to secure a sense of belonging to create the conditions whereby colleagues feel confident to take action. We believe in organic development backed by strategic but ‘light touch planning’ that enables us to be flexible, responsive, and ready to meet change.

How has your business evolved during this pandemic, especially in terms of optimisation of human and technology resources?

As a company operating across the whole Asia Pacific region, the pandemic allowed us to develop our virtual operating procedures and activities. We have now developed platforms to deliver online learning, and assessment, to reach out to our markets and have much better adapted our marketing to the digital age. We have localized much of our provision supported by the ‘hub’ in Malaysia. More than anything, we have started to explore the power of technology and AI to support our operating processes. This has led us on a journey to being more effective and, most importantly, to engage our workforce in creative and innovative projects by providing greater capacity. It was also a period for enhancing our market intelligence to better focus our promotions and lead-generating activities.

How do you see your business growth and prospects in Malaysia/ the UK now?

The area of student recruitment in the UK is entering a period of challenge after rapid expansion. Our work in Asia Pacific is worth £40m to the UK each year. We must now accelerate our ability to diversify recruitment pipelines and activities within Malaysia and across the region to ensure the company maintains its growth potential and income-generating capabilities. To achieve this, we are embarking on a huge collaborative approach to online learning, the development of short course and professional development opportunities and flexible learning pathways to the UK. We are also bidding to ensure services that are under threat in the UK can be effectively sustained through regional expansion. For instance, our Malaysian company will be developing a gateway for supporting our expanding staff base across Africa.

Our aim is enshrined in our vision and values which are to provide high-quality educational services, and this will continue to be our guiding light. In times of challenge, we believe it is the time to be brave and bold about our ambitions.

What are the top 3 reasons for your organisation joining the BMCC?

  • As an organisation promoting UK education internationally, it is vital for us to connect with UK interests in our core operating countries and regions.
  • BMCC provides us with an opportunity to connect with others in the HE sectors within Indonesia and exchange ideas.
  • We are keen to develop a returning graduate guidance service and will need the support of members to give a real-life view of the world of employment for graduates.

What is the top value you see for your organisation in being a member of the BMCC?

  • Providing members with insights into the HE landscape, where it is heading and how we need to collaborate to ensure we have career-ready graduates.
  • Developing links between members and graduates as they return to the UK.
  • Offering access to professional development opportunities for members.

In one sentence, how would you describe your own experience or your organisation’s experience as a member of the BMCC?

Our membership with BMCC has already opened new doors and given us contacts, particularly in the education sector that we did not have before. This coupled with the opportunity to network with the UK business sector operating in Malaysia opens our minds to new possibilities and how we might address the challenges of the future.