Seminar in honour of Emerita Professor Lalage Bown

Seminar in honour of Emerita Professor Lalage Bown

Issued: Thu, 14 Jun 2018 14:19:00 BST

CR&DALL were delighted to host a seminar in honour of Emerita Professor Lalage Bown on 23 May 2018 in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow to mark her continuing commitment to adult education and international development in her 10th decade. The seminar was opened by Professor Anne Anderson, Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Social Sciences who in her remarks, emphasised how much she in the early stages of her own career had been influenced by Professor Bown’s commitment to gender equality. This issue was picked up later by Barbara Read in her presentation of work being undertaken with African partners as part of a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project concerned with gender in Higher Education. As many CR&DALL subscribers will know, Lalage worked for many years in Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia, becoming the first female professor of adult education in the Commonwealth before later assuming the same status when appointed to the University of Glasgow. In my opening presentation, I tried to give some sense of Lalage’s career and life trajectory. Although I knew that she had been a contemporary of Margaret Thatcher at Somerville College, Oxford, I did not know (and she reminded the audience) that they were respectively chairs of the Conservative and Socialist societies there: a formidable combination.

Our opening speakers were charged with scene-setting, Tom Schuller, Michele Schweisfurth and Jim Gallacher reminded us of the progress made in Scotland (and more widely) in adult and lifelong learning, and in international development. I had envisaged that Tom would at least provide one surprising thought, and he did not promise us with his proposal as one of five priorities for the field being a focus for adult education in preparation for death.

Latter presentations focused on current work of the School of Education and the centre for Open Studies with input not only from Barbara Read, but also Catherine Lido (Big Data and older adult learning), Alec Mackinnon (Access to Higher Education), Queralt Capsada-Munesch (Young Adult Lifelong Learning in Europe) and Bonnie Slade (the International Masters in Adult Education for Social Change (IMAESC)). Bonnie’s input was completed by three highly impressive reflections by IMAESC students Tracy Dolcy (from St Lucia), Daniel Akor (from Ghana) and Preeti Kaur (from India). The field of adult education is safe in such hands. These presentations overall provided just a taste of the work that we do in research and teaching, and demonstrate both that we have sustained the legacy that Lalage (and her successor have laid down), but also the ways in which we have been able to develop work in new directions. Lalage’s immediate successor, Professor Maria Slowey, although unable to be with us, was able to send to us an eloquent appraisal of her memories of Lalage in a video presented to participants.

The final session allowed first Professor Alan Rogers and then Professor Michael Omolewa to offer their perspectives. Alan in a passionate presentation argued that the focus of adult education provision should ‘move away from lifelong learning to the more socially transformative provision which forms the basis of the SDGs –addressing the key issue of inequality’, and argued for an approach based on the creation of a national system of community learning centres. Michael, who had travelled from Nigeria especially for this event, fondly remembered that that it was Lalage who had been responsible for offering him his first lectureship at the University of Ibadan even though he claimed (erroneously I suspect) that this had occurred despite the fact that he knew nothing about the subject.

Of course other participants at the seminar made many contributions from the floor, but we gave the last words to Lalage. I will leave readers to assess what she had to say through clicking this link. Suffice it to say that as ever she provided a fitting end to the seminar, and we wish her well for her next decade of contributions.

Just to cap things off, she spent much of the afternoon offering advice to a visiting PhD student from the University of Derby!! 

I wish to thank everyone for their efforts in contributing to this event, especially colleagues Margaret Sutherland and Susan Kelly without whose logistical and practical support we could not have done so.

Michael Osborne

Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning and Director of Research, University of Glasgow


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