GRAMNet co-convener named first UNESCO chair for refugee integration

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Professor Alison Phipps

Professor Alison Phipps

Hannah Donnelly
Writer

A professor from the University of Glasgow has joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) universities network as the new Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts.

Professor Alison Phipps, a strong advocate for refugee rights, was named Chairholder of the new panel by UNESCO’s Director General last month. Phipps is the co-convenor of the University of Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet). The panel will aim to assist those currently within the asylum system.

The new UNESCO Chair will collaborate with internationally recognised researchers from the University of Glasgow as well as from Africa, the Arab States region and from other global institutions. This network will build a system of research, training and documentation on how the integration of refugees into new communities can be supported through exploration of languages and the arts.

Professor Phipps said the endowment of the Chair by the UNESCO network will significantly extend current networks “with a focus on the protection of living culture” and the development of multilingual and creative hubs.

Professor Phipps said they will be working with institutions including the University of Ghana, the Noyam African Dance Institution and the Islamic University of Gaza. The panel will also collaborate with the Scottish Refugee Council, the Red Cross and the Iona Community to further enable refugee integration through languages and the arts.

The Chair will also collaborate with existing communities including GRAMNet, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, international researchers and artists, which currently operates under the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

In response to the UNESCO’s announcement, the University of Glasgow established a full-time secretariat to undertake a research program on refugee integration through creative and cultural expressions. Gameli Tordzro, a Ghanaian multiple arts professional, and Tawona Sitholé, a poet from Zimbabwe, have also been appointed artists-in-residence at the University as part of the project.

The University of Glasgow will hold an inaugural UNESCO Chair lecture at the beginning of next year.

Principal of the University of Glasgow, Anton Muscatelli, said: “The establishment of this UNESCO Chair is a great honour for the University and reflects our commitment to and support for refugees since the 1930s when the University was a haven to academics fleeing the Nazi regime. It is also a tribute to the inspirational research that has been led by Alison Phipps.”

The announcement of the Chair received strong endorsement from its partners, with anticipation that the extensive network will work towards a number of goals including a more rounded intercultural understanding, freedom of expression and mobilising education.

This University has a prior experience with community integration, according to GRAMNet. Glasgow has a history of hosting large migrant communities and currently has the largest population of refugees and asylum seekers under the dispersal policy.