Director of European and International Mobility

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by Sarah Marten

Dr Jean-Bernard Adrey leads the newly established European and International Mobility Service (EIMS) at Coventry University. This service enables current students and recent graduates the chance to engage in a range of exciting overseas study, work and volunteering opportunities. It also encourages participation in international projects, fieldwork and teaching placements. EIMS works closely with the University’s Careers and Employability Service. As a fluent speaker of three languages, he is passionate about the benefits of language skills and time spent living in a different culture, both for future employability and personal gain. 

What does your job involve?

My overall responsibility is to drive Coventry University’s new agenda to enable us to become the first global modern university in the UK. This also implies that our graduates will become globally employable and the evidence from employers’ research shows that this is indeed the case for graduates with international experience, cultural understanding and/or language skills. Experience gained abroad gives students the edge when it comes to job applications, and also provides skills and qualities employers favour, such as adaptability, flexibility, as well as an entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit.

Here at Coventry we are already established as the UK leader for EU mobility schemes such as the Leonardo Da Vinci programme, which helps to sponsor undergraduates and young graduates to undertake work placements in EU countries. We also have a long-held association with Erasmus, which serves to increase student mobility within Europe and offer cultural and study opportunities.

As a part of EIMS, our students and recent graduates can apply for a wide range of short or long-term international opportunities, either study, work or volunteer-based, both within Europe and beyond. Coventry University students have recently benefitted from opportunities in countries such as Argentina, China, India and Uganda, as well as many parts of Europe.

My main role is to develop and promote a variety of additional international schemes and to organise financial support where none is available. Arranging language and cultural training are also key parts of my job. We also organise mobility programmes for University staff to receive training in foreign universities and/or enterprises. The knowledge gained from these experiences can then be embedded into our curricula.   

Do you work in a team?

As my job is a new role, we are in the process of setting up a team of six staff whom I will lead, which will include an International Placement Adviser, an Erasmus and Study Abroad Co-ordinator and administrative support. I work with University staff at all levels from Deans and Associate Deans, Directors of Partnership Offices and of course the lecturers. When I travel abroad I usually do this on my own.

What else do you do?

Organising the publicity for what we do is an important part of my job, in conjunction with Coventry University’s Marketing and Communication department, and I also develop our website. Much time is spent in meetings to foster a cohesive and coherent approach to building an internationalised university at all levels.

Is overseas travel a big part of your job?

Yes, I usually spend about three months travelling abroad each year, mostly over the summer months. We always make sure that each overseas opportunity has been visited by a member of staff from Coventry University. This not only serves to increase co-operation between us and the partner organisations, but also ensures that health and safety issues meet the University’s requirements. Rather than spending time in airports, where possible I prefer to drive myself around Europe to the various destinations.

Why did you choose this work?

Coventry is an enterprising university giving opportunities for enthusiastic staff to engage in innovative projects. This job combines my desire to take up challenges with my passion for multicultural developments, languages and cultural learning. 

What are the hours/working conditions?

The working conditions are excellent at Coventry University and there is good support from colleagues and management alike. I usually work from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm, although at certain times of year increased flexibility is needed, which can involve weekend and evening working.

Which of your qualifications have been the most useful to you?

Fluency in languages, both written and spoken, has been instrumental to me. In the UK we have tended to lag behind the rest of Europe in our ability to speak other languages, which can hold people back in the international job market.

What skills and personal qualities are important?

You need to be hard-working and highly motivated, and have excellent problem-solving and negotiation skills. Flexibility and creativity are also important, alongside well developed communication skills, both written and verbal. A very well-organised approach is also essential. More than anything else though, you need to enjoy what you are doing, and the rewards will follow, both at professional and personal levels.

But more importantly than individual skills, the success of the whole enterprise depends on robust teams clear about the systems and procedures to create and follow, who are also passionate about working towards a common goal.

What do you enjoy about your job?

This job is very multifaceted and fast-changing, and presents me with exciting new challenges all the time. I am passionate about languages, and love the opportunity to share this enthusiasm with others.

Travel opens up previous unexplored horizons for individuals and encourages independence and self-reliance. The greatest reward for me is when a student comes to thank you for broadening their horizons and changing their mindset and life.

Whilst visiting numerous international organisations I have met many people, some of whom I now count as personal friends.

Any dislikes?

I sometimes dislike the long hours this job requires.

Is there any on-the-job training? 

Much of what I have learnt for this job has been experience gained whilst working, learning how to manage projects and people on-the-job. You learn a great deal about yourself whilst learning about others. Coventry University offer a comprehensive programme of staff training, which includes IT and management. I am about to start a course in Prince2 Project Management.

What prospects are there and what ambitions do you have?

My goal is to drive this international agenda so that Coventry University becomes the premier internationalised university in the UK by 2015.

How does this job fit into your work-life balance?

I make sure that I relax and take time off when I need to. I enjoy sport, playing music and travelling.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you started?

I wish that I had had more international experiences including the opportunity to learn more languages when I was younger and in a position to do that. Life is so busy for me now it would be difficult for me to find the time to learn another language.

What advice have you got for anyone interested in your career?

Don’t be afraid to engage into work, whatever you do, and to always question assumptions to break free from you own barriers. Be passionate about what you do and you will gain enormous job satisfaction. When you feel you need a break though, take it.

If you weren’t in this job what do you think you would be doing?

You might find me working as an academic undertaking sociolinguistic research or teaching, or working as a musician whilst travelling. I like the idea of maintaining the freedom to change life again in the future as I have done so before. Then, anything is possible.


Dr Jean-Bernard Adrey obtained his first degree in English Literature at the University of Limoges in France. After a spell working as a teaching assistant at an American University he moved to the UK and worked at the University of Portsmouth, initially as a languages assistant. Dr Jean-Bernard Adrey then embarked upon an MA in Applied Linguistics and TEFL, after which he was appointed to a position as Associate Lecturer. Working in the School of Languages and Area Studies at Portsmouth he taught French Language and Area Studies for 10 years, and also completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Social Research Methods and a PhD in Sociolinguistics and European Studies. Dr Jean-Bernard Adrey then moved to Coventry University, working for three-and-a-half years in the Careers and Employability Service, first as a European Careers Adviser, then as a Programme Manager and ultimately as Joint Head of Service. He started his present job early in 2009.  Dr Jean-Bernard Adrey is also fluent in Italian, French and English and speaks some Spanish.

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