US campus puts Glasgow Caledonian at heart of action

New York opening offers Scots an exciting opportunity to broaden their academic horizons, says Pamela Gillies

GCUs New York campus is already attracting attention. Picture: Contributed
GCUs New York campus is already attracting attention. Picture: Contributed

As a relatively small northern European nation, Scotland has never felt constrained by its geographic boundaries and, I believe, never will. History is peppered with the significant achievements and scientific advances of global Scots and, whatever the outcome of next year’s referendum on the country’s constitutional future, Scotland is destined to remain internationalist in outlook and attitude.

Nowhere is this more evident than in higher education, which has to think and act globally while also delivering locally. Cabinet secretary for education Michael Russell captured this perfectly when he said: “In order for Scotland and its people to succeed and flourish in the globalised 21st century, we must all become and live as global citizens.”

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Glasgow Caledonian University shares this view and last month launched our new campus, GCU New York, to an enthusiastic audience of more than 250 in midtown Manhattan, who warmly welcomed what one commentator described as a “bold” decision to bring the best of Scottish – and British – education right into the heart of the world’s leading higher education market.

According to the British Council, growth trends in trans-national, or cross-border, education indicate that by 2020 more students will be studying for UK-accredited degrees and post-graduate qualifications outside the UK than in the UK, and the US is forecast to remain one of the largest tertiary education markets.

Opportunity for growth

After China, it is the second largest in terms of global tertiary enrolments (19.3 million in 2009). With a permanent presence now in the US, GCU will be able to compete for a slice of this enormous potential, both from American students and other nationalities attracted to the United States. This opportunity for growth comes at a time when universities need to diversify income to ensure their financial sustainability in an uncertain economic climate – and taking advantage of new global opportunities will become an increasingly important factor for all Scottish universities, not just GCU.

Internationalisation also allows universities to share knowledge and ideas with new partners and friends, to enhance our academic reputation and to attract leading international research collaborations.

GCU New York has already created a range of opportunities for us to work with new academic and business partners and will provide exchange and development opportunities for staff and students. As Matt Lamb, GCU student association president, noted: “I’m excited by the opportunities which GCU New York will offer …because our students are our future leaders and I know they’ll welcome the challenge such new perspectives offer them.”

GCU New York is modelled on our successful post-graduate satellite campus in London, which has reached capacity after just three years and is now home to the ground-breaking British School of Fashion.

New York campus will help further intensify relationships

GCU London’s pioneering approach has already attracted widespread industry support, including the decision by one of Britain’s biggest high street names, Marks & Spencer, to locate its creative design hub within the university’s campus in Spitalfields. The campus in New York will help further intensify the university’s relationships with existing business and industry contacts in Scotland, the UK and the US, specifically in fashion, global brands, banking and the entertainment industries.

GCU New York will initially offer a range of short courses and executive education programmes, master-classes and “town hall” style debating events. Following the granting of a charter by the US State Education Department, post-graduate programmes, including courses from the British School of Fashion and the British School of TV Fiction Writing, will also become available.

Importantly, the university will take its expertise in social business, led by our Nobel Prize-winning Chancellor, Professor Muhammad Yunus, to the very heart of one of the most competitive markets in the world. And we will do this using innovative teaching methods, including the co-creation of programmes, which captures the expertise of academic experts and honorary professors from industry and public service, blended with the divergent thinking of our students, to offer tailored, grounded learning for a more effective and relevant education.

The spirit and social conscience of our students is central to the university’s success at all levels and more than 5,000 engage in community service each year. Several hundred students also volunteer to work with the GCU Caledonian Club, a significant success in our widening access activity, which involves 7,000 schoolchildren and 2,400 parents from difficult backgrounds in Glasgow and London in university activities to raise aspirations and improve basic skills in communication, literacy and numeracy. The GCU Caledonian Club will also feature in New York as a vital element of our commitment to the common good.

• Professor Pamela Gillies CBE is principal and vice-chancellor of GCU Glasgow Caledonian University,