Collaboration with alumni

Database of PhD students/academics and a structured programme how to engage alumni in the academic and public life of the HEI.

Various forms of collaboration engaging alumni are possible e.g.: information sharing/distribution, organising events, alumni as academic and cultural ambassadors, alumni as academic and intercultural mentors

Active alumni networks of international PhDs and academics play an important role in strengthening the HEI reputation at the international level. Their knowledge and working and life experience represent a valuable resource from which potential/future Ph.D. students and visiting academics can greatly benefit. Active alumni are valuable assets for the HEI, their experience of living in a host country and the knowledge of how they incorporated their study or research/academic activity at the particular HEI into their further professional career can help the HEI optimize their study/research programmes, academic or research conditions, and external cooperations. Alumni can help in achieving higher visibility of the HEI nationally and internationally, they can create bridges among different cultures and reach out to broader academic and public audience.

On the other hand, the alumni can benefit from a variety of professionals and workplaces and continue their lifelong learning and develop rewarding collaborations.



Improved access to information Better communication and cooperation Improved visibility Increased enrollment and retention

Basic information

Categories Profesional & Academic Development Networking Promotion & Visibility
Mobility stages After-leaving Pre-departure
Delivery schedule Continuous
Importance Important to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups PhD student/Early career researcher R2 - R4 researchers Lecturers (incl. Language Teachers)
Types of contracts of researchers Full degree student Permanent employee Visiting scholar Employee in training (interns, research fellows, postdocs) Fixed term employee Exchange student
Career stages of researchers Less than 6 months 6-12-months of experience 1-3-years of experience 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience More than 15 years of experience
Lengths of stays of researchers 3-6 months 6-12 months More than 12 months

Practice setup

When setting the collaboration with alumni you can consider the following steps:

Phase 1 - Scope planning:

  • Define qualification criteria for alumni (who are alumni - category of staff - level of experience - duration of stay)

  • Determine where the alumni community will fit in your institutional organizational chart. They may connect to the university at a central or faculty/institute level

  • Look for any synergies with existing alumni groups established at the institution or nationwide (student graduates, alumni programme operated in national language)

  • Consider staffing: determine who will be in charge of the alumni community, a task force (department, a full-time or part-time job, etc)

  • Think of the data collection system - the social media platform to create community vs. internal database, consider their pros and cons

  • In the case of an internal database platform - define the set of data that will be collected (besides personal contact details, e.g. place of origin, past work experience, scientific discipline) and how they will be updated (e.g. further professional experience, research expertise, jobs, change in personal contacts)

  • Define the form of communication (related also to the data collection platform - e.g. private LinkedIn group, periodic mass emails/newsletter, dedicated website section/intranet, etc)

  • Make the communication plan, define content and periodicity to share with the registered alumni (e.g. info on research updates/highlights, mobility funding opportunities, newsletter)

  • Define benefits for the alumni (different types of discounts - professional courses; workshops to update specific career skills, intangible benefit of being a part of a larger network, invitations to public/professional/career talks, alumni visiting grants at the HEI, etc.)

  • Define the scope of activities. Prepare internal guidelines/framework of the collaboration programme and share it with relevant departments/units.

  • To understand alumni expectations, needs, and preferences, consider preparing and distributing a survey to gauge their interests and levels of engagement

  • Consider creating an alumni advisory board with representatives from all areas of the institution, including staff, faculty/institute managers, students, and graduates (if possible)

  • Prepare graphical identity of the programme, brief information about the alumni programme and make it publicly available (e.g. leaflet, website information)

Phase 2 - Database and recruitment planning

  • In the case of internal data collection platform:

    • Prepare the technical interface for the alumni database, if possible align it with existing tools registering staff/students

    • Define the alumni data set, user management, user and access rights, and set up registration to the alumni programme allowing the alumni to sign up (sign out), including the "update profile" features and filtering options

    • Consider setting up a regional group of alumni (with the possibility to indicate their association with a particular regional group/s - e.g. the place of origin, the place of current stay)

    • Consider using volunteers to manage the regional groups

    • Attach to the database an integrated communication channel (based on filtering criteria) to send customised information/requests

  • In case a social media group will be used - set up the group and its administrators

  • In case an external partner (e.g. national, regional authority) collects data - negotiate the conditions of collection of data and access to the data for authorised staff of HEI

  • Notify the relevant departments/units and staff of their tasks and general procedures related to the alumni programme about future alumni -  e.g. to contact the PhDs/academics at some point before departure with information about the alumni programme

  • Notify the relevant departments/units and staff about procedures for recruiting former PhDs/academics/researchers

Phase 3 - Delivery planning - Information sharing, Events, Alumni as Ambassadors

  • Define an alumni task force responsible for collecting the information/content shared with alumni

  • Prepare the standard technical means for sharing the content/information respecting the alumni programme graphical identity  - e.g. intranet email system, newsletter integrated into an email, or on website vs. social media posts

  • Plan activities and events that would ensure active involvement of the alumni such as:

    • career talks (participation of alumni on various promotion events (including wider public audience, future students/staff), community building for university staff,

    • events ((regular) alumni network meeting)

    • discussing cultural specificities of the hosting country/institution

    • reviewing course content and curricula

  • Plan the dissemination channels and publicity actions attached to such events/activities

Phase 4 - Delivery planning - Alumni as Mentors

mentoring scheme e.g. based on the academic profile or cultural background - description to be continued

Challenges (factors to consider): It is necessary to have in mind relevant legislation on personal data protection.


Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • PR department
  • Students association
  • Researchers association
  • Career development centre
  • HR Department
  • Study department
  • IT support department
Partners involved in practice setup
  • Municipality
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
  • Career advisor
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • User procedure and manual designed
  • Process organization developed
Description of collaboration

Internal actors (who):

@ IRO/welcome centre/HR department/Study department: these departments can play a crucial role in the recruitment phase, as they shall be informed of the arrivals and departures of PhDs/academics

@ IT support departments: can handle the IT system running the database of alumni and all the data administration

@ PR department: can be in charge of the content/information sharing, preparation of events in liaison with students and researchers associations and respective science departments


External collaborations

@ Other HEI/research organisations in city/region: Find out if the HEI in the city/region has a similar alumni programme and consider, if joining forces for e.g. public events could lead to a higher visibility of the academic institutions.

@ Municipality: can plan to engage alumni into municipality cultural and educational events as speakers and potential promoters of city identity/brand abroad.

Practice delivery

Recruitment - Database feeding:

  • Enable simple registration of alumni in order to join the community

    • before departure as part of their farewell procedure

    • former alumnis - e.g. via personal contacts of the current academic staff

  • Promote clearly benefits for joining the international alumni community

  • Manage the expectations - state clearly possible tasks and receive consent for those purposes

  • Connect with the alumni via

    • e.g. private LinkedIn group for international alumni

    • dedicated website/website section listing HEI alumni initiatives and regional groups, providing connection to local alumni members

  • survey your alumni to uncover important demographics about location, gender, jobs, and more

Alumnis as ambassadors (alumni events and promotion activities):

  • mass emails, Newsletter, LinkedIn updates - sharing HEI highlights, updates, and job and fellowship opportunities.

  • use social media tools to create meaningful networking, including user-generated content (e.g., they can create their own LinkedIn groups, organize them by their study/research programme, create discussions and polls within them, and post relevant articles)

  • Engage international alumnis in relevant events:

    • invite them to your online/onsite events in their professional field 

    • organize alumni network meetings/annual gatherings/reunions 

    • invite them to the HEI study/research promotion events as speakers (e.g. in collaboration with respective embassies)

    • invite alumni to participate in Career talks or Intercultural talks

  • Publish and promote testimonials, written/pre-recorded personal/career stories/interviews/podcasts with alumni on your website, LinkedIn, FB, IG

  • Ask them to distribute the relevant information/newsletter in their new professional environment

Alumni as mentors: this activity has a personalised dimension thus requires the consent of the respective alumnus to be contacted based on the filtered criteria in the database. Mentoring programme could have several forms e.g.:

  • public version - encourage alumni mentors to share their story/accomplishments on the dedicated website helping prospective Ph.D. students to reach them as a mentor to identify options for their future academic path

  • upon registration to the system, users could have access to the database and if the mentor allowed to  be contacted for specific requests, any user could approach the person with professional/cultural/relocation query. 

  • structured mentoring programme based on requests and matching criteria


Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Actors involved in practice delivery
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Research office
  • Centre of continuous/adult education
  • PR department
  • HR Department
  • Study department
  • Students association
  • Researchers association
  • Career development centre
Partners involved in practice delivery
  • Municipality
  • Embassy
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of events participants annually
  • Number of subscribers among international researchers
  • Number of events organized annually
  • Number of researchers involved in events annually
  • Number of newsletters sent annually
Description of collaboration

Internal actors (who):

@ IRO/welcome centre/HR department/Study department: these departments can play a crucial role in the recruitment phase, as they shall be informed of arrivals and departures of PhDs/academics

@ PR department: can be in charge of the content/information sharing, preparation of events in liason with students and researchers associations and respective science departments, research office, career development centre, centre for continuous education.

@ Career development centre: can use the database for testimonies, career talks, connection to business, etc.


External collaborations

@ Other HEIs in the host country:

In order to reach a synergetic effect and lower the human and financial costs, several/all HEIs in the host country can join forces to create and run a (national) International Alumni Network and facilitate its connection to the local Alumni networks. This will facilitate approaching a larger amount of international alumni, promote the host country as a study/research destination, organize (online) events in collaboration with other partners such as embassies, national mobility funding agencies, other international Alumni networks.

@ Embassies:

HEIs can collaborate with embassies when promoting the host country as a study/research destination (e.g. international education fairs), among others, inviting international alumni from the respective region to share their study[research and cultural experience to support the visibility and attractivity of the host country/HEI.

@ Municipality/local or regional government:

HEIs can collaborate with the municipality or local/regional government when organizing various events or alumni (providing a representative venue for alumni gatherings, building the image of the city/region/common brand awareness events, inviting alumni as speakers to various relevant events related to major societal issues or development of the city/region and its public space.

@ Career advisor:

offering career-focused webinars on topics like personal branding, writing effective resumes, developing and modifying a career plan, negotiating a promotion, networking, or professional and technical updates.


Examples of practice

Research Alumni Network

Research Alumni Network has been created for current and former visiting researchers in Heidelberg as well as for researchers with a Heidelberg background working abroad. Among others, it runs a programme for international junior as well as former scientists who want to initiate projects for the first time or renew contacts again during a short stay at Heidelberg University or a university-related research institution in Heidelberg. 

The Network also offers:

  • Researchers Ambasador Programme
  • Researchers Alumni Meetings
  • Mentorship Programme of the Welcome Centre
  • Reseachers Alumni newsletter
  • Funding and Research support
  • Cooperation and Partners (e.g., other Alumni networks) 
Find out more

Research Alumni Programme


RWTH Aachen University collaborates with research alumni (guest scientists, doctoral students) to enhance institutional programmes, activities, and services based on the alumni's ideas and suggestions for improvement. Research alumni also serve as ambassadors helping spread the word about the manifold study and research opportunities at RWTH Aachen. The university also publishes success stories of its international research alumni.

Find out more

EHT Zurich Alumni Programme

The ETH Alumni Association offers its members various benefits such as:

  • Lifelong e-mail address
  • Discounts for Insurance and healthcare
  • Possibility to feature the main ETH building on a credit card
  • Access to the EHT library
  • Various benefits for profession and office (upcoming sales for digital hardware, job application produced by a professional, co-working space, etc)
  • Discounts for accommodation in partner hotels, partner services prividers - hiring electric bike, hiring or bying a car, and other high-quality products)
  • Discounts for various cultural events
  • Advanced trainings
  • Publications 
Find out more

CEITEC Alumni Network

CEITEC Alumni Network publishes their alumni success stories, creates a LinkedIn group for sharing and exchange of information, support the alumni to become CEITEC ambassadors. 

Find out more