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International credibility ‘a priority’ for Gibraltar’s university

The University of Gibraltar must work “as a matter of priority” to consolidate the regulations and governance structures necessary to ensure its degrees are recognised not just in Gibraltar but internationally too, Lord Luce, the university’s first Chancellor, said in an interview with the Chronicle.

Lord Luce, a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords and former Governor of Gibraltar, was speaking following the announcement last week that vice-Chancellor Daniella Tilbury was leaving her post to become Gibraltar’s first Commissioner for Sustainable Development.

Mrs Tilbury, a Gibraltarian academic with broad international experience, has been instrumental in setting up the university and helping the fledgling institution to establish links with other universities around the world.

But her departure comes at a crucial point in the university’s development and Lord Luce said it was essential to maintain momentum to ensure the institution’s academic roots take hold.

“Setting up a new university is not straightforward,” Lord Luce told the Chronicle.

“But I think if Gibraltar can find, through the university, a means whereby courses can strengthen Gibraltar and be international as well, this will be good.”

“We should make no mistake about it, it will take a long time. To set up any university is a big challenge.”

Lord Luce said one of the key issues for the university was to establish a regulatory framework in pursuit of the highest academic standards, in line with other recognised academic institutions around the world.

He said this was essential to ensure the university obtained international recognition, which in turn would help it attract students and build partnerships with other international institutions.

“If you are an academic here, you need to know that you’ve got a recognised framework, that the degrees are recognised not just by Gibraltar but by the outside world,” Lord Luce said.

“That has to be done through proper regulation, where we make absolutely sure that regulation is firmly established, that the governance rules are there, that we have an academic board…ensuring degrees are valid.”

“All these challenges take time, but it’s a priority right now and I’m hopeful that all the parties concerned can get together in good will and try to sort this out quickly.”

Lord Luce, whose role is advisory rather than executive, said he was “particularly sorry” to lose Mrs Tilbury as vice-Chancellor.

“She’s been outstanding over the last four or five years, right from the beginning of the process of setting the university up, but I congratulate her very warmly on her new job,” he said.

Lord Luce said Mrs Tilbury’s new role could also prove beneficial for the university, particularly given that much of it will focus on relations with Commonwealth governments and institutions.

“I think she could do a lot on that side, not least also for cooperation with Commonwealth universities, and that will be a blessing for the new vice-Chancellor,” he said.

The new vice-Chancellor has yet to be appointed and Lord Luce said a competitive selection procedure would now follow.

In the interim period, the University of Gibraltar has appointed Professor Catherine Bachleda as acting Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Bachleda was the university’s as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Academic Quality and Professional Learning.

Prior to coming to Gibraltar, Professor Bachleda was assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, responsible for enhancing the academic quality and reputation of the university through faculty development, curriculum reviews, institutional accreditation and student academic and leadership development.

Over the past 25 years, she has worked in academia and industry in North Africa, the Middle East, the UK and Australia in a variety of management, quality, and learning roles.

“Her appointment to the acting-Vice Chancellor role will provide continuity for the institution and her experience, will help to ensure it continues to make progress towards its objectives,” the university said in a statement.

In a separate development, Professor Clive Finlayson and Professor Ian Peate have been appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Gibraltar.

Professor Finlayson is the Director of the Gibraltar Museum and also has the specific roles of Chief Scientist and Curator, while Professor Peate is the Head of the School of Health Studies at the Gibraltar Health Authority.

Both men have wide international academic experience and are recognised as leaders in their respective fields.