Opinion: Working towards a more robust, just and progressive society

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Professor Steve Olivier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Robert Gordon University
Writing for The Scotsman, Professor Steve Olivier, RGU Principal, says Robert Gordon University is working towards a more robust, just and progressive society.

Scotland is justifiably proud of its universities. They have risen to the challenges of Covid-19, not only for their own students but also in support of the national recovery effort. But there is more to do as we seek to deepen our sense of civic duty and play our part in economic regeneration. This includes tackling inequalities and addressing skills deficits, particularly those created by a lack of educational opportunity. We will do this through access to full-time courses, upskilling, retraining, accreditation for prior learning, credit accumulation and transfer, and by providing more flexible models of education.

Working in partnership with like-minded organisations including employers, professional organisations, community groups and government bodies such as the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS), tertiary education can respond and provide better access for all. At RGU, we are committed to providing work-integrated learning opportunities that enhance a student’s skillset and employability. This is reflected in the way our students view us – in the latest National Student Survey, RGU ranked in the top three universities in Scotland for student satisfaction and was the top modern university in the whole of the UK* for this measure (*excluding colleges, small, specialist and private providers).

RGU also provides work-based learning degrees through the SFC funded Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) Programme. The university works with over 250 businesses and public sector organisations, providing the opportunity for people to gain a degree through their employment while supporting their companies to succeed. Recently, we, like a number of other universities, celebrated our first GA Honours graduates, a proud moment, not only for the individuals and their families, but also for their companies, the University and partners. It is important that this national programme, so often cited as best practice and with evidenced success of enabling people to learn while they remain at home and in work, will continue to receive dedicated Government funding.

Our economy relies on creativity and ingenuity and RGU works tirelessly with a range of partners and stakeholders to help the region and wider Scotland to prosper. In the North East of Scotland, RGU is partnering with organisations such as Opportunity North East, SDS and the councils using the Scottish Government North East Economic Recovery and Skills Fund (NEERSF), to support communities and industry as they deal with the effects of the pandemic and transition to a low carbon economy. An example is the recent launch of a regional Startup Accelerator programme to support early-stage entrepreneurs to commercialise their ideas. The programme will provide valuable training, resources and guidance from industry mentors to help start-up companies in the region to develop and grow. The programme builds on RGU’s own accelerator for students and staff which has resulted in over 60 start-ups in the last three years.

Universities have a leading role in shaping a more inclusive society and RGU is committed to improving equality of opportunity. As part of this it offers a number of RGU scholarships and fee-waiver places as well as providing additional support to learners. Our long-standing partnership with North East Scotland College (NESCol) has enabled thousands of students in the region to transition from college to university at the time in their life that suits them.

Through provision of industry-informed courses, including professionally accredited degrees, graduate apprenticeships and short courses; by supporting new businesses to grow and prosper; and by providing development pathways to provide greater access for all, RGU demonstrates its long-standing commitment to working in partnership to ensure a more robust, progressive, and just society.

Professor Steve Olivier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at Robert Gordon University

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