Andréa Edwards

Andrea’s leadership of the University’s activities as Official Partner of the QBR International Leg has been game-changing for the University and its partners. Her creativity and energy, combined with a collaborative approach harnessing expertise and ideas from across the institution, have ensured the full range of the University’s work is presented to a global audience.

Andréa EdwardsAndrea has leveraged existing partnerships and developed new relationships in key Commonwealth countries, enhancing our international reputation. As the face of the University and key contact to many, Andrea lives our values and underpins our global ambitions.

What’s your connection to the University?

My work has focused on promoting UK higher education for over 25 years – initially at Aston and Southampton universities. The majority of my career, however, has been spent at Birmingham developing and delivering our international ambitions, including leading the teams setting up our first overseas representative offices in China and India, before more recently focusing on developing strategic alliances in North America and Europe as Director of International Development and Mobility. I also currently lead the University’s student mobility agenda, including the team responsible for delivering the government’s new Turing initiative.

I am also currently a student at Birmingham, as I am undertaking the senior leader’s Executive MBA programme. It’s terrific to think that I’ll soon be an alumna of the University as well as having had such an exciting career here.

Do you have any favourite sports? What do you like about them?

It’s really hard to pick a favourite as I really get enthused by all of the competitions in mega-sporting events. However, my work involved setting up our strategic partnerships in Brazil at a time when the country was hosting the World Cup, which was really exciting, especially getting to visit the Maracana Stadium, so I’d definitely say football ranks in my top three. I was also fortunate to attend the Jamaican Camp events on campus during 2012 and got to meet Usain Bolt himself. Who doesn’t love the thrill of athletics – watching the fastest men and women on earth competing?

While growing up, did you follow any particular sports stars?

I think our own University alumna Hannah England is just terrific as a role model for young women. I got to meet her through our work on the Commonwealth Games and she’s not just an incredible athlete, but a very warm and engaging individual who is also very generous with her time for the University and in inspiring future athletes through her coaching academy.

What are you most looking forward to during the Games?

It’s so hard to choose just one moment as there will be so much to look forward to. I am looking forward to taking my family to see the women’s hockey on our campus when we’ll have Birmingham students and alumni competing, and I think the opening and closing ceremonies are going to be spectacular.

However, I think it has to be that moment when I carry the baton for the institution. That really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a highlight of my career here at Birmingham.

How does it feel to know your alma mater is hosting the Games?

I’ve been very fortunate to work on a lot of high-profile initiatives here at Birmingham but our partnership with the Games has been game-changing both in raising the profile of the University globally, and also in helping to change perceptions of our city. We have been celebrating and strengthening our Commonwealth connections with high profile baton events and academic symposia in strategic regions, all underpinned by our game-changing campaign. Our Commonwealth scholarships have helped to diversify our student intake, and our Commonwealth Visiting Fellows scheme will bring outstanding early career researchers to work with leading academics here at Birmingham, creating a cohort of future Commonwealth ambassadors.

A key priority of our partnership with the Games was to accelerate our global ambitions and raise our profile internationally, and I think it’s fair to say the impact so far has exceeded all expectations. The media coverage alone generated through our partnership with the Queen’s Baton Relay – International Sector has reached an audience of 400 million, which is incredible.

All of this has been achieved through the incredible efforts of individuals and teams of both professional services and academic colleagues across the institution working together collaboratively on the Games. The Queen’s Baton brings together communities and celebrates connections and it has certainly achieved that for us institutionally, nationally and globally.

How does it feel to be selected as a batonbearer?

It is such an incredible honour to have been selected as a B2022 batonbearer for the University. I remember feeling incredibly excited, a little bit emotional, but also very humbled to hear that I’d been selected, given the amazing Commonwealth batonbearers we’ve had through our partnership with the Queen’s Baton Relay – from Vinisha Umashankar, the young 15-year-old innovator who spoke at Cop26, to former Commonwealth athletes in Australia, and even the President of Zambia, a University alumnus.