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Universitas 21: Showcasing the best of Birmingham

Universitas 21: Showcasing the best of Birmingham

On 3 May, over 50 senior leaders and Vice Chancellors from universities across the world travelled to Birmingham for the highly anticipated Universitas 21 AGM and Symposium.

This year’s theme was ‘The Leaders of the Future’ and focused on how today’s leaders can ensure that the leaders of tomorrow inherit the best world possible. With students and representatives from some of the world’s best universities in attendance, the pressure was on to deliver an event with maximum impact.

Universitas 21 network members outside The Great Hall.
Universitas 21 network members outside The Great Hall.

Like with any multi-sessional event with an international audience, there was plenty to consider. A key consideration was making sure delegates from overseas (where many Covid restrictions remain in place) felt comfortable during their time with us.

To help people feel safe, free test kits and face masks were provided, along with colour-coded stickers for delegates to wear. Used to show how much personal space delegates wanted, the stickers offered a subtle yet clear way for delegates to signal their preferences.

Birmingham’s best

Hosting Universitas 21 on campus was a chance for us to put our best foot forward and showcase the best of Birmingham on the global stage.

To do this, the event was held across as many of our venues as possible to demonstrate our extensive facilities. Among them were some of our best-loved venues – which are always guaranteed to impress – including the Bramall, Great Hall, The Exchange, and The Lapworth Museum of Geology.

Happy man chats to other event delegates over drinks. The Lapworth's dinosaur is illuminated in the background.
The Lapworth offered a striking backdrop for a drinks reception.

Guests were delighted and intrigued by the Lapworth’s extensive geological collections, while The Exchange’s bright and spacious Banking Hall offered an ideal space for delegates to meet and mingle.

Delegates help themselves to an array of dessert items available in The Exchange.
Our city-centre venue, The Exchange, was a hub for networking.

Meanwhile, the Great Hall, with its impressive architecture, brought the necessary grandeur to such a high-profile event, while the Bramall’s finely tuned acoustics ensured that the conference’s key messages were heard loud and clear.

Close up of delegates smiling and applauding after a presentation in the Bramall.
The Bramall’s high-spec auditorium was the perfect place for keynotes and presentations.

The event was enhanced by seamless AV throughout. The team brought the drama to student-led performances with striking light effects and screen projections, and also managed the flow of the conference’s online sessions to create a flawless hybrid experience from start to finish.

Food also played a central part in the delegate experience. Guests were inspired by a series of original menus, crafted by our food and beverage team, Food Fellows.

Two of our Food Fellows team smiling and carrying silver trays with balti dishes on, ready to serve to guests in The Exchange.
The Food Fellows team cooked up a storm with a range of tempting dishes and treats.

From British tapas to Birmingham-inspired afternoon teas, each menu was designed with seasonality in mind and made the most of local and sustainably sourced produce.

However, the pièce de resistance was the bespoke, three-course gala dinner served in the Great Hall. The star of the menu was the dessert: as dry ice poured across the table, the scent of chocolate orange filled the room, providing guests with a truly spectacular and immersive experience.

Woman pours dry ice from a kettle to create an immersive dessert experience. Dry ice pools flows off table as guests film the occasion.
Serving dessert with plenty of theatre: chocolate orange extravaganza with dry ice.

The event certainly had the impact intended. On the final night, delegates wrote down their pledges and promises for the future, feeling inspired to take action today to help build a better world for the leaders of tomorrow.

Photos courtesy of Nicola Gotts Photography. 

David Oram

David Oram

View all posts by David Oram

Our Head of Event Management David, is responsible for managing and delivering academic events and conferences. He started work at the University in April 2005, and enjoys supporting clients with their event requirements.

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