Alumni Services

Supporting European engagement

Helen McMillan, the University of Edinburgh’s Regional Director for Europe talks to us about her interest in student mobility and how Brexit keeps her busy!

My background

Helen McMillan

Having studied for a degree in modern languages and taken myself off to put my newly acquired skills to the test, I returned to the UK after two years in the Basque country with an interest in working with international students in a University context. I was lucky enough to get the experience I wanted both at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Stirling before starting at Edinburgh Napier as a Senior International Officer (Europe) and ending my 10-year stint in charge of the University’s Global Mobility team.

It was not however, the beaches or the pintxos of San Sebastian that determined my current career path but my Erasmus year at the University of Caen in Normandy. Apart from the lifelong friendships that were formed, and aside from the obvious cultural and linguistic benefits of my exchange, it was my unexpected personal development that confirmed for me that I wanted to work in a role that facilitated this type of opportunity for others. I’m fortunate enough to now work in a sector where intercultural exchange and international collaboration is embedded across all areas of University life and where international opportunities for students and staff are plentiful – long may they continue!

At Edinburgh

I work in one of Edinburgh Global’s eight regional teams and am currently the Regional Director for Europe. The role is wide, varied and with Brexit looming, it’s busy too.

In a sentence, my role is to support and facilitate European engagement across the University. This can take many forms from supporting inward and outward visits to Europe, ensuring the University is an active member in key European networks, facilitating opportunities for students to study and work in Europe, increasing European alumni engagement and monitoring and responding to relevant external developments, of which there are many!

Inevitably Brexit mitigation is a considerable part of my role as I support plans to minimise, where we can, its perceived impact at the University. Although personally disappointed at the outcome of the EU Referendum vote, Brexit also offers us an opportunity to look again at current European activity and to think differently and creatively about existing links with key European stakeholders and what we need to do to ensure that we remain a partner of choice and a number one study destination amongst our European neighbours.

More will become clearer in the next few months, but in the meantime, I know I’m lucky to work for an institution that is so committed to ensuring that we get the best possible outcome for our EU staff, students and for existing and future European collaboration.

Something I know...

With Regional teams based in-country and in Edinburgh, wherever you are in the world, there will be a team who are active in your region and when they’re not supporting the University’s international ambitions, Edinburgh Global makes a local contribution too.

As well as holding numerous fundraising events throughout the year, colleagues in the team recently won the University’s Gold Sustainability Award for their Green Space project. Alongside colleagues from Student Recruitment and Admissions, members of Edinburgh Global created a garden behind their offices which, apart from growing edible produce, promotes sustainability, staff well-being and supports local biodiversity. We’re a team with many talents!


Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more about the University and Europe. Regardless of where you are from and where you are now, alumni like you can help to ensure the University’s voice is heard as it makes clear its strong commitment to continued European engagement.

Contact details for Helen McMillan

Related links

The University and Europe homepage

The University and Europe: an update