decorative icon representing CommunityPeople centred, globally engaged

World-changing ideas begin with world-changing people, and we believe that ideas flow more freely when our staff and students feel valued and supported. We want to work together to build a community with a culture of being values-led with people at its centre, and play our part as global citizens engaged in a shared endeavour to make tomorrow better.

Enabling access to a University education

Wendy Onabule faced missing out on university because her family were seeking asylum, until UofG stepped in.

Wendy Onabule

Wendy had always planned to come to university, but it wasn’t until she started applying that she realised she was in a different position to her schoolmates. She had arrived in Scotland as an asylum seeker in 2006 and her residency status was still unresolved, which almost lost her the chance of studying for a degree.

UofG’s Head of Widening Participation Dr Neil Croll explains. “As an asylum seeker in Scotland, primary, secondary and even further education at college is free. However, when you apply to university you are then regarded as an international student, with no recourse to public funding, and therefore hit by international fees, effectively creating an impassable barrier for just about every asylum seeker.”

Wendy had assumed that all she had to do was get the right grades and it would all be straightforward. “It wasn’t until I received my offers and the universities started asking for documents, that I learned from my mum that our residency case was still in progress,” she says. “At that point, we hadn’t heard anything back from the Home Office for nearly two years.“

Just when it seemed that her situation was hopeless, she got an email from her headteacher, who had spoken to Neil. The University had reviewed Wendy’s case and agreed to fund her. “Glasgow was the only university I applied to that was willing to investigate and hear my story,” says Wendy.

“I’d heard of widening participation but didn’t think it could help someone in my situation. I was put in contact with Neil, and the rest is history.”

"Wendy was the first student we gave a fee waiver to, but since Wendy came to UofG, we have put provision in place in the form of our humanitarian scholarships, four each year for asylum seekers and four for refugees." Dr Neil Croll

“Wendy was a real trailblazer.” says Neil. “She took part in our Reach programme (which helps eligible pupils to meet the requirements they need for university) and got straight As across the board. I thought, this just isn’t right, there must be something we can do as a university, so I emailed Anton [Principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli], who suggested we do a fee waiver in Wendy’s case. It helped to have someone who understood our work and believed in it.”

Wendy is now in the second year of her PhD in Medicinal Chemistry, and her family have been given ‘discretionary leave to remain’, though this still involves a complicated and expensive visa renewal process every two years. 

The positive experience that Wendy has had at UofG has prompted her to become an ambassador for the Widening Participation team and encourage others in similar situations. “The WP programme helped me so much,” she says, “and I’m more than happy to give back whenever I can.”

Reimagining our research culture

The University is creating a fairer, more rewarding and successful research environment, supporting our researchers at all stages of their career.

researchers at work with table of artefacts

Good research happens within a community that supports, incentivises and rewards a positive research culture. Changing culture takes time however, and can be achieved only by implementing a sustained set of aligned actions.

To identify the areas to focus on at UofG, we first surveyed our 3,000 research and technical staff and carried out a consultation with each of our 26 academic units. This was followed by conversations with academics, administrators, funders, societies and publishers, resulting in an action plan covering five themes.

These were

  • creating an environment in which colleagues support each other to succeed
  • improving career development
  • introducing fair approaches to evaluating research quality and recognising different contributions to research
  • making research methods and findings openly available
  • supporting high standards of academic rigour.

Projects were devised that reflected these themes and offered practical solutions to specific problems. These were delivered through pop-up teams which brought together human resources, the library, research offices and academic discipline leaders.

Collaboration between people working in academic and professional services was crucial to the implementation and success of the projects.

"A good culture is not an alternative to excellence; rather, it is what will allow more of us to excel.  Professor Chris Pearce, Vice Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange

The projects included developing research culture awards that reward collaboration and support; introducing a career track that recognises staff with specialist knowledge and skills but who follow non-traditional paths; and revising recruitment and promotion processes to recognise collegiality.

The University’s work to create a research culture where everyone can thrive has been recognised by being named winner of the Guardian Staff Experience Awards 2020.Integrated financial support was also made available for open access publication, which means Glasgow has the second highest proportion of open access outputs worldwide of any institution with more than 10,000 publications.

The success of the research culture initiative has led to the creation of the Lab for Academic Culture. Launched in December 2020, the lab aims to enhance academic research and teaching culture by implementing local initiatives and shaping sector policies. 

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Shining a light on UK links to slavery

In 2017 a team of researchers led by Simon Newman, Professor of History, began a three-year project to shine a light on a little-known group of people who arrived in the UK in the 1700s as someone else’s property.

Runaway Slaves is a major digital resource which catalogues over 800 Scottish and English newspaper advertisements printed between 1700 and 1780. These appeal for the return of slaves who had escaped the captivity of their masters, often wealthy merchants and plantation owners. The advertisements offer rich but disturbing detail, describing not just the slaves’ clothing and mannerisms, but also the scars or brandings they may have suffered.

graphic representation of chains being broken

The hope of the researchers involved is that the snippets will give an identity to those individuals who bravely challenged their enslaved status. “We hardly ever know anything other than what is included in the advertisement itself,” says Professor Simon Newman. “A successful escape meant disappearing from the record. These advertisements are important because they remind us that there was a time when slavery in Britain was routine and unremarkable.”

"I am proud that the University has acknowledged this and become the first UK university to establish a reparative justice scheme."
Rachel Sandison, Vice-Principal, External Relations

As the largest collection of information we have about enslaved people in 18th-century Britain, Runaway Slaves has helped to chronicle these individuals who had no voice of their own, and has deepened understanding into our links with slavery.

The global impact of Runaway Slaves has inspired films, plays, and other resources, all of which have helped to deepen our understanding of our links to slavery and to chronicle these individuals.

The success of the project made the University face up to its past. Despite our historic commitment to abolition we were compelled to confront the fact that we gained significant financial benefits in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries through donations and bequests with their roots in slave ownership and the trade in slave-produced goods.

In 2018, we became the first UK university to acknowledge our links to slave ownership with the publication of a comprehensive report, ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’. This aimed to determine the extent to which we benefited financially from the profits of slavery, estimated as up to £200 million in today’s money, and to launch a major programme of reparative justice over the coming decade.

Our plans include creating an interdisciplinary centre for the study of historical slavery and its legacies; increasing the ethnic diversity of our staff; and launching a programme of to allow students of Afro-Caribbean descent to study at the University to address the fact they are currently under-represented.

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Removing barriers to leadership

The University has gone into partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver a Minority Ethnic Leadership & Development programme, to help remove barriers to leadership in public life for minority ethnic communities.

In partnership with the John Smith Centre, housed within the School of Social & Political Sciences, and backed by £470,000 of government funding, the Minority Ethnic Emerging Leaders Academy will deliver a nine-month professional and personal development programme for 50 black and minority ethnic people from across Scotland.

female employee speaking at informal meeting

Kezia Dugdale, Director of the John Smith Centre, says, “We listened hard to the call for action emanating from the Black Lives Matter movement and reflected hard on what we could do that would make a meaningful difference. At every stage of this programme we’ll listen to, learn from and involve people with lived experience of the barriers that minority ethnic communities face, and combine it with our experience of what makes a real difference and delivers long term change.”

This new programme builds on our existing commitment to delivering reparative justice in acknowledgment of our historical links to slavery, and our desire to positively impact the future.

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  • John Smith Centre

A centre of excellence for precision medicine

In 2020 we were awarded £38m to create a global centre of excellence for precision medicine, focused on translating science and innovation into a real-world clinical setting.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital buildings

The Precision Medicine Living Lab will be led by the same UofG team who set up the rapid response Lighthouse Lab COVID-19 testing facility in Glasgow. The facility will have unparalleled interactions between academia, industry and the health service.

It will also address the biggest challenge currently facing precision medicine: the translation of research innovation into clinical practice for the benefit of patients. Precision medicine is the tailoring of medical treatments to each patient’s characteristics, ultimately helping to treat people quickly and more effectively, and avoiding unnecessary side effects from drugs that won’t work. Precision medicine is made possible by using cutting-edge medical tools such as more precise diagnostics, imaging, genomics and artificial intelligence.

The Living Lab will offer growing space and support infrastructure for the development of precision medicine-based health innovations so they can go from lab to health service. It will help to support companies to develop and commercialise as well as encourage business start-ups, while offering the NHS substantial savings by implementing precision medicine in the UK’s largest hospital.

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak is Scotland’s leading expert on precision medicine: “The Living Lab will offer a game-changing opportunity to bring a dynamic collective of industry, academia and the NHS together to work on research and development opportunities that will have potential and implications for the NHS and ultimately patients.”

The University has already created the Clinical Innovation Zone – a unique space in Scotland where industry, academia and the NHS work alongside each other on Precision Medicine projects. Both the Clinical Innovation Zone and the Living Lab will form key nodes of the University-led Glasgow Riverside Innovation District, which aims to offer an opportunity to reimagine Glasgow’s proud industrial heritage for the 21st century and establish Glasgow’s leadership in the high-tech industries of the future. 

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Helping young people into University

A major new initiative to open three learning centres in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities will help us do more to offer access to university to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In partnership with the University of Edinburgh and the education charity IntoUniversity, the centres will support young people to achieve their ambitions in education and progress to positive destinations thereafter.

Two centres, in Govan in Glasgow and Craigmillar in Edinburgh, opened in October 2021 and a third centre, in Glasgow's Maryhill, will open in early 2022. All three areas have high levels of socioeconomic deprivation.

Teacher and pupils in a secondary classroom

The support that the centres provide begins from the age of seven and takes the form of after-school academic tuition, pastoral care, mentoring and other programmes. As well as learning in their own community and taking part in work experience and internships, young people will visit UofG to develop an awareness of university life and the opportunities that higher education can offer.

The scheme is responding to the entrenched poverty and educational disadvantages that affect the lives of young people in these areas, and aims to help break the cycle and deliver positive change for communities as a whole, inspiring ambition and higher aspirations.

In 2019, 68% of school leavers supported by IntoUniversity attained a place at university and the charity currently runs 31 centres in England, with proven impacts that include improved chances of getting to university and improved attitudes to learning.

The University has a long history of tackling social inequality and the hope is that establishing a permanent presence in communities such as these will offer benefits to attainment and employment which could have a ripple effect through generations.

At the moment, 28% of our student body come from the 40% most deprived communities in Scotland. Their performance is evidence of ability and potential and allows adjusted offers of entry to be made that take each person’s full circumstances into account. 

“We are deeply committed to widening access and to offering a world-class education to anyone who has talent and ambition, regardless of economic circumstance or social background. This doesn’t just benefit those students, it makes our university more diverse and reflective of the society we serve,” says Dr Neil Croll, Head of Widening Participation at UofG. 

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