University of Sunderland Case Study

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Exceeding Pre-Covid Targets in a Global Pandemic

To beat challenging international student recruitment targets demanded a major re-think and upgrade of the whole team.


Tough competition, visa restrictions, Brexit and Covid made hitting targets challenging.
The answer demanded a whole new approach.

The University of Sunderland has an international reputation for excellence and quality teaching, however recruiting overseas students is challenging for all universities, with strong competition in the UK and globally. And now changes in The Borders Agency’s policy has made it even more difficult to gain UK visa’s, we have left the EU . . . and then came Covid.

They needed to rethink their approach. Key objectives were to:

  • Create a stronger, more united, more strategic senior team
  • Develop middle managers to take greater accountability
  • Develop and embed an improved culture
  • Hit significantly higher targets

This required a multi-level, multifaceted approach.

STC’s expertise in designing holistic, integrated programmes that address complex and varied needs in a simple straightforward way was a good fit.


We designed and ran highly targeted interventions at each level of the organisation to create and embed a new approach to success

STC worked in close partnership with the University to run a series of training events, facilitated meetings and personal coaching at all levels:

  • The Whole of the International Office: Facilitated strategy and culture workshops – resulting in strong two year strategic plans
  • The Senior Leadership Team: 1:1 executive coaching, and team building events – honing individual skills and widened their approach
  • Middle Managers in the UK and the Far East: Accelerated Learning Programmes and Team Events – increasing personal skill levels and creating a cohesive, consistent style and culture
  • Pro-Vice Chancellor: Continual consultancy and collaboration

The key, over the 18 months of support, was really understanding the organisation, facilitating innovative thinking and effective solutions, and ensuring they were implemented.


A transformation in the leadership team, the culture, the strategy and the capability – leading to exceptional 25% year on year increase

The success of this Programme was far-reaching: teamwork improved dramatically and is now ‘the best it has ever been’. They have a strong collective strategy that is being implemented progressively and collaboratively. Networking and relationships inside the University, with the Faculties, as well as externally with partners has strengthened; and results are ahead of ambitious targets, increasing by 25% year on year.

Although this initiative started pre-Covid, the University’s investment in development has meant that when Covid hit, they suffered significantly less impact than almost any other University in the country. Why? Because of teamwork, strategy, capability, flexibility and results; and that difference was measured in millions.










“I credit STC with the work they have done to change perceptions, develop teamwork and drive up results.”

Ian Moody, Deputy Director of International at University of Sunderland

“STC helped us to form, shape, and improve our leadership teams and has been a key part of our success. We value their support and input highly.”

John MacIntyre, Pro-Vice Chancellor at University of Sunderland