UofG joins UNESCO’s Universities Network

The University of Glasgow has been invited by UNESCO’s Director General to join its prestigious universities network - the UNESCO Chairs - and establish the first UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts.

The purpose of the UNESCO Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on how the integration of refugees into new communities can be promoted through languages and the arts. The UNESCO Chair will bring together internationally-recognised researchers in this field from across the University as well as other institutions in the United Kingdom, in Africa, the Arab States region, as well as in other regions of the world.

UofG's Professor Alison Phipps will lead this activity as the UNESCO Chairholder.

Alison Phipps in Ghana 450UofG's UNESCO Chair

Professor Phipps, is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies in the School of Education and Co-convener of GRAMNet – the Glasgow Refugee and Asylum Migration Network. She said that the endowment of this Chair: 'will allow us to extend our work significantly with a focus on the protection of living culture. It will allow us to develop multilingual and creative hubs of activity with a number of partners, including Glasgow Open Museums, Scottish Refugee Council, the Red Cross and the Iona Community to enable refugee integration through languages and the arts. In Ghana we shall be working with the University of Ghana and the Noyam African Dance Institute and in Gaza with the Islamic University of Gaza.'

Glasgow’s UNESCO Chair will be delivered in partnership with GRAMNet, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, a collective of international researchers, artists, public and third sector organisations. It extends present work funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Translating Cultures theme with existing partners – including those in Gaza and Ghana with historical experience of refugee integration, land, language and population loss – to address needs in countries that are presently receiving displaced persons.

Tawona Sitholé 450Artists-in-Residence

In response to UNESCO’s announcement, the University will establish a full-time secretariat to undertake a programme of research focused on fostering refugee integration through creative and cultural expressions. The University will also appoint two artists-in-residence – Gameli Tordzro, a Ghanaian multiple arts professional, and Tawona Sithole, a poet from Zimbabwe.

'Great honour'

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow welcomed the announcement and said: 'The establishment of this UNESCO Chair is a great honour for the University and reflects our commitment to and support for refugees since the 1930s when the University was a haven to academics fleeing the Nazi regime. It is also a tribute to the inspirational research that has been led by Alison Phipps. I have no doubt that the UNESCO Chair will lead to an expansion of this important work at a time of unprecedented refugee crisis'.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO, which is the central hub for UNESCO-related matters in the UK, supported Professor Phipps through the rigorous application process to establish the UNESCO Chair. The UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Higher Education Director, Professor Kiran Fernandes, said of the announcement: 'With its focus on fostering community integration through creative and cultural expression, Glasgow’s UNESCO Chair encapsulates what UNESCO is all about – building peace in the minds of men and women through intercultural understanding and collaboration. In being invited to establish a UNESCO Chair, the University of Glasgow is taking its rightful place within a dynamic, global network of universities which have been formally honoured by UNESCO for high-quality research that is working to further UNESCO's peace building mission'.

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First published: 11 October 2016

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