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Glasgow Caledonian University’s new master’s programmes in diplomacy

Pamela Gillies, CBE, FRSA, FAcSS, FRSE Principal/Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University 
Pic Peter Devlin

Venetia van Kuffeler meets Principal and Vice Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE to discuss their new master’s programmes in diplomacy

1. GLASGOW CALEDONIAN UNIVERSITY IS THE ‘UNIVERSITY OF THE COMMON GOOD.’ WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU? WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT IN 2019?

The stamp on Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) seal states ‘for the common wheel,’ (interpreted as ‘common good.’) On our foundation in 1875, we were a science college for young women largely from disadvantaged backgrounds. So, our origins were rooted in social justice. Today, we absolutely still live by these values, with real actions demonstrating them. All our students and staff must sign up to being committed to the common good, maintaining a core moral compass to deliver to our original mission.

In 2019, this is especially important because the general public has slightly fallen out of love with universities. Not because we research, innovate, create new drugs or educate young people, but due to issues like large vice chancellor salaries, the quality of education not being quite good enough, or students not receiving value for money. So as civic institutions, it is essential that we tell the genuine story of what we do every day, looking through a common good lens.  After all, we’ve been here for 600 years and we plan to be here for another 600, delivering with a strong autonomous sense of purpose. 

2. HOW DO YOU INTERPRET ETHICAL LEADERSHIP AT THE UNIVERSITY? HOW IS THIS PUT INTO PRACTICE? WHY IS THIS RELEVANT TO DIPLOMATIC READERS?

Ethical leadership is absolutely essential and is enshrined in our values proposition; it is fundamental from the bottom up and the top down of our institution, and we celebrate fabulous examples of integrity and ethical activity. As Vice Chancellor, I have to be a model of the ethics of the institution and guardian of our moral compass, as does our Chancellor, (world famous musician) Annie Lennox. As leaders who encourage leadership throughout the student body, we must model what we believe is an ethical approach in life, supporting dignity, promoting human rights and equality for men and woman.

Universities must challenge the traditional way of doing things and try to find solutions to some of the enormous problems that are facing us. We are an institution that is asking important questions about life, like how we can encourage the development of wealth and prosperity in our societies, but in a sustainable way. But universities can’t answer these questions alone and must work alongside other trusted partners to advance our mission. To be trustworthy is essential. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or your nationality, sexual identity or religion etc., people always recognise a person of character. It shines through; it’s not something that can be manufactured.

3. WHAT DOES GCU STAND TO GAIN BY HAVING A PRESENCE IN LONDON?

Our presence in London has promoted the imaginations, horizons and confidence of both our student body and staff. Not only providing access to the capital city of the UK, but the location has also allowed us to create new partnerships, and provided us with access to global industry leaders, which would not have been so straightforward in Glasgow. For example, I’m interviewing Jo Malone this evening in front of students for the British School of Fashion at our London campus.

4. WHY IS GCU PURSUING THIS NEW ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE OF DIPLOMACY IN ITS LONDON BASE?

Professor Ayad, who I believe is known to London’s diplomatic community, suggested a suite of new diplomatic courses that spoke to the university’s focus as the University of the Common Good. These courses will be educating decision-makers from the top down. It is a university’s job to be a disrupter; we can challenge traditional models, reassess values and question how diplomacy can be better conducted all over the globe. 

5. WHAT MASTERS’ DEGREES WILL THE UNIVERSITY OFFER? HOW COULD DIPLOMATS BASED IN LONDON STAND TO BENEFIT FROM STUDYING AN MA WITH YOU?

We are currently finalising our three masters’ degrees: MSc International Diplomacy and The Digital State; MSc International Business, Trade and Diplomacy and MSc International Security and Diplomacy to start from April 2019. These high-quality masters’ degrees will be cutting-edge and flexible involving both face-to-face and online teaching to fit into diplomats’ existing working day.

6. CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS ABOUT THE DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE GCU SCHOLARSHIP ON ‘INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY AND THE DIGITAL STATE?’ WHO SHOULD APPLY?

We’re excited to pursue this scholarship with Diplomat magazine and will release further details shortly. We encourage all readers of the magazine to apply! There will be an essay involved and the winner’s work will be published in this very magazine.

7. WHY IS THE NOTION OF THE DIGITAL STATE SO IMPORTANT IN 2019?

Our diplomats and civil servants of tomorrow must have a clear understanding of the nuts and bolts of an ethical digital environment. The digital state must be explored from so many perspectives, but particularly from transparency and governance angles. The digital state will have to create digital badges around issues such as cyber security, security of data, standards of accounting and a whole raft of other areas. But this can be used to promote understanding and complementarity around the world. This is hugely challenging as there’s a vast amount to be absorbed. GCU will teach this in an exciting and interactive way with peer learning.

8. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE GLOBAL ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR THE AFRICAN LEADERSHIP UNIVERSITY?

I was first introduced to the founder of the ALU Fred Swaniker at our campus in New York. Originally from Ghana, he had heard about our common good values. He said to me: “We have to promote ethical leadership and practice in Africa in politics, in business and education.” We agreed to become his educational partner, accrediting GCU degrees at the African Leadership College in Mauritius, and supporting their ambitious agenda and their chancellor, Nelson Mandela’s First Lady, Graça Machel. As a member of the ALU Global Advisory Council, I am keen to support these ethical programmes, with real life training in diplomatic, educational or business environments. Fred Swaniker had an amazing approach, which we could help put into practice in partnership.

Furthermore, with our former Chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, we helped create a new nursing college in Bangladeshto train nurses from rural villages to the best British standards. We managed this project for five years, before handing our accreditation to Dhaka University. It’s fabulous to observe how this model can be replicated. 

9. WHAT CHALLENGES, IF ANY, DOES BREXIT POSE TO GLASGOW CALEDONIAN UNIVERSITY AND HIGHER EDUCATION IN GENERAL?  

We have worked hard to promote collaboration, peace and prosperity in Europe since the past two world wars. It’s heartbreaking to see these bonds undermined. In higher education, we work across Europe with collaborative partners, meaning we all have an opportunity to flourish. Indeed, these partnerships mean we can also compete with well-funded institutions in the US, and the growing research expertise in China. For GCU it’s doubly concerning, because we have over 7 million euro investment from the European Commission for our work on social innovation.  We are likely to lose that funding and our leadership in that arena. So, we have doubled our efforts to reconfirm the partnerships that we already hold dear, and to position ourselves beyond Europe, working in Africa, Omanand New York. But reaching out wider across the world doesn’t make the Brexit blow any less.

10. RESTRICTIVE IMMIGRATION RULES HAVE REDUCED THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF THE UK AS A DESTINATION FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. WHAT ARE GCU’S PLANS TO COUNTERACT THIS?

Through our transnational education programme and not simply partnership campuses. Students studying with us also have exposure to partnerships with big business. In Africa, we have co-created programmes with industry at a price that is affordable. The one I’m most proud of is our programme with Transnet Freight Rail in South Africa. Most of the 26,000 employees in the company come from townships, but by working in collaboration with us and the University of Johannesburg, they are developing skills, acquiring qualifications, diplomas, degrees and even Masters, all while being promoted to managerial positions in the company. Transnet Freight Rail invests in the educational programmes, and as a not-for-profit organisation we charge the lowest rate we can, and they have found a 4.2 per cent increase in productivity and a saving of money in staff costs as a result because they can employ newly skilled local South Africans rather than expensive expats. Of course, these employees can also provide a different future for their families.

11. WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE DAY OR EVENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

Over the years, I’ve graduated over 100,000 students. Two graduation ceremonies stand out: firstly, when we installed the aforementioned Muhammad Yunus as our Chancellor. He gave such a rousing speech to the students and they were so taken with the idea that they could be leaders and change-makers. And then I installed Annie Lennox as Yunus’s successor, who gave our student body such a hug. She may be a rock star (she is former lead singer of The Eurythmics), but she’s also an amazing advocate for gender equality and social justice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE THREE NEW MASTERS’ DEGREES AT GLASGOW
CALEDONIAN UNIVERSITY, CONTACT INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR STEPHANIE PITTICAS

E: Stephanie.Pitticas@gcu.ac.uk

Gervase@aumitpartners.co.uk

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