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For Gibraltar's fledgling university, slow and steady is the right way forward

The Chancellor Annual Lecture 220519 { seq} ( Photo John Bugeja) The Crown and the Commonwealth by the Rt Hon Lord Geidt

Establishing a new university is "a massive challenge" that "must not be rushed", the Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar said, adding that Gibraltar could in time become an educational hub for subjects of importance to the Mediterranean region and beyond.

Lord Luce, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords and former Governor of Gibraltar, is the university's first Chancellor whose tenure comes to an end in August after four years in the post.

In sketching out the university's potential and the need for steady and steady growth, he is drawing on past experience having been Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham when it was set up 40 years ago.

"My experience from the University of Buckingham is to build it in stages," he said.

"It's taken 40 years for the University of Buckingham to really have established a reputation."

"I think it will be much quicker here, but I think we've got to be patient and it will take a lot of hard work from the university's splendid staff."

"I'm optimistic, but taking it in stages, in a measured way, is to my mind the answer."

Lord Luce, whose successor has yet to be appointed, added: "Having had the privilege of being Governor of Gibraltar and, before that, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, which was a totally new, independent university, I know that it's a massive challenge to set up a new university."

"I think this is going to be fascinating to watch, but it must not be rushed."

"It's got to be taken in stages."

Lord Luce said "immense progress" had been made over the past year to consolidate a solid regulatory foundation and governance framework for Gibraltar's university.

"There's a regulatory environment which is absolutely watertight," he said, highlighting the work not just done by the Minister for the University, Gilbert Licudi, and by the university's first vice chancellor, Daniella Tilbury.

"Now we're into a new stage," he said.

"Some of the hard bits were handled by Daniella Tilbury as well as the minister, but now we're getting into new and exciting challenges."

"What sort of new courses can we introduce, against the background of a new university that is establishing a reputation?"

Lord Luce revealed that the university had been admitted into the Association of Commonwealth Universities, something he said would open up numerous opportunities.

"That's quite an achievement, because they've taken us outside their rules, which is normally that you've got to be a university for at least five years," he said.

"It shows that we're respected, and that's good news."

And he added: "The biggest challenge is to establish a reputation that is respected internationally."

"Being accepted by the Association of Commonwealth Universities is a step in the right direction, because you have to satisfy them that the quality of the teaching is up to international standards, and that's very, very important."

"Next, it's a question of pioneering innovative courses that satisfy a need and there's a challenge in this area."

The university is already active in the areas of marine sciences and Mediterranean studies, as well as environmental issues including climate change.

There are PhD students carrying out "terribly exciting" research, and there are students too from outside Gibraltar, including from Spain and Morocco.

"If Gibraltar takes it calmly and steadily, in five or 10 years' time, things might be very good indeed," he said.

"I see Gibraltar becoming a hub, a focal point for the region and in Commonwealth terms too, for common issues between Mediterranean countries."
"Gibraltar can be a catalyst."

Pic by Johnny Bugeja

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