I share Robert Gordon University’s ambition to eliminate barriers to higher education - Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie CH has been appointed as Robert Gordon University’s new ChancellorDame Evelyn Glennie CH has been appointed as Robert Gordon University’s new Chancellor
Dame Evelyn Glennie CH has been appointed as Robert Gordon University’s new Chancellor
I am honoured to join Robert Gordon University, the Scottish University of the Year, as its Chancellor.

It has been my life’s mission to widen access to music and use it as a medium to build social cohesion. I also know that listening is the key to inclusion and collaboration. RGU shares these values and I support the university’s ambition to eliminating barriers to higher education and widening participation among underrepresented groups.

The role of universities and higher education has never been more important as we recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic; RGU will have an important part to play in ensuring that society has the skills and learning necessary to enable it to thrive despite current challenges.

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I intend to build on the work done by Sir Ian Wood to enhance RGU’s reputation. I recognise this is a great privilege and I am proud to represent the university not just nationally but on an international stage.

I’m hugely honoured to be considered for such a role. It is something I had never expected or planned for, so this has made me pause and think and reflect on what does my profession mean in the scheme of this particular role. The connecting thing I can see with all people is that listening is the key element. It seems to me as I go through life that what seems to be the louder word becomes much more magnified. I think there will be an awful lot of listening in this role and I am really looking forward to it.

Whenever you are dealing with a landscape that is outside of your comfort zone or unfamiliar, an awful lot of listening is about observing, and that is what I will be doing – what is the voice of this institution? What is it that makes this voice heard? What are the challenges? – Questions are a sound in themselves that create bridges that then ignites opportunities.

The first step is observing, it is about getting to know the institution to see the realistic challenges ahead, especially as we navigate through some unchartered territory due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I want to get to know all of the departments of the university. What I have found over this past year of the pandemic is that the virtual aspects have opened up many possibilities and collaborations. The types of people we can connect with is far greater than we thought it would be – although there has been a sense of isolation, there has been a sense of collaboration and the reach is far greater. My industry has always been global and virtual access has only increased those connections. I have found that it is talking to people outwith your own career that ignites a lot of ideas.

This year has taught us all that to be adaptable, to recognise what our skills are and to think how we can collaborate. These are key factors to moving boundaries.

Access is at the core of RGU’s values, and access for me equates also to inclusion, it equates to building those bridges, reaching out, respecting and collaborating. With a university that has so many departments I can’t wait to see what those connections are. When I do a concert, there is the sound people, the lighting people, the canteen staff, the people who clean the stage and dressing rooms – each person is so crucial to that end result and it is the same for the university.

I remember being at secondary school Ellon Academy where the ethos was that every child has a story to tell and every child belonged to every department of the school. If you were hearing impaired like myself there was a tendency in those days to think that you could not belong to a music department because that was about sound. This school was not like that. If you were hearing impaired, you absolutely belonged in the sound department. If you were sight impaired, you absolutely belonged in the art department. And that is exactly like RGU – it is all about inclusiveness and access.

Dame Evelyn Glennie CH has been appointed as RGU’s new Chancellor. She will take over as the titular head of the institution when Sir Ian Wood stands down in July, after 16 years as Chancellor.

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