Pamela Gillies: How GCU students benefit from Fergie time

Sir Alex Ferguson used a recent visit to Glasgow Caledonian university to discuss the importance of offering opportunities to young people. Picture: Contributed
Sir Alex Ferguson used a recent visit to Glasgow Caledonian university to discuss the importance of offering opportunities to young people. Picture: Contributed
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FOOTBALL legend’s happy to be an unsung hero says GCU chief Pamela Gillies

‘I am delighted to support Glasgow Caledonian University, which shares in my belief that if you give young people opportunity, they will flourish.”

These words were spoken by Sir Alex Ferguson, who recently spent two days with the staff and students of the University, meeting the first recipients of his £500,000 gift enabling more than 200 students to access higher education and take up incredible opportunities during their studies.

Many people know just one side of this remarkable man, the public side. What people won’t know about is his commitment to making life better for those from challenging circumstances.

Sir Alex is unfailingly modest about the fact that he promotes children’s rights for Unicef, which has also included him working on AIDS prevention. Last year, his annual golf day broke the £1,000,000 mark in total funds raised for a wide range of charities.

Sir Alex was born in our great city of Glasgow, in Govan, in 1941. It was here, against the backdrop of the shipyards, where his father and brother both worked, that he credits his parents for instilling within him his renowned capacity for hard work, and the resilience and diligence that would serve him so well during his career in professional football.

Here at GCU, we were fortunate that in 2001 Sir Alex accepted an honorary doctorate. Last year, he launched our Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation with an incredibly generous gift over ten years.

Sir Alex’s donation is facilitating a range of educational opportunities including scholarships, travel awards and Magnus Magnusson Awards for our students

Supporting our strategic goal of “transforming lives through education”, this university is committed to widening access and articulation, raising aspirations and creating flexible learning pathways with partners.

The university’s finest advocates are our students, and the evidence shows that they are succeeding in their goals. GCU is the top Scottish modern university for completion of degrees, and 95 per cent of our graduates proceed to employment or further study within six months of leaving us. We deliver an outstanding student experience, and support excellence through a research-led curriculum, guided by our strength as the top Scottish modern university for research power.

We are seeking to be “doers”, harnessing all our intellectual, social and emotional capital to deliver social benefit, and challenge conventional ideas about what a university should do.

With Sir Alex’s support, the first recipients of his scholarship are volunteering on life-changing projects in Africa and Asia. Angela McIntyre, who is studying for a Post Experience Certificate in supporting learning and student engagement, is volunteering with Global Vision International in India on projects giving women and young girls equal access to education, health care and income.

Another three GCU students are taking their construction know-how to Malawi, where flooding has caused terrible destruction to buildings and crops across the country, to help protect schools. They describe the support of Sir Alex as “an honour” to receive.

In May, Sir Alex was also guest of honour at our inaugural Foundation Dinner which raised more than £80,000 for further student scholarships and awards.

The university’s ability to deliver on our social mission, and transform lives in Glasgow, and around the world, relies on the collaboration and support of our partners.

To date, the foundation has raised more than £5 million to provide life-changing opportunities for Glasgow Caledonian University students. This is thanks to Sir Alex and the many friends and supporters of the university, who all share in our founding mission as the university for the common good.

• Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies, CBE FRSE