From Hull to Head of the Law School, Lesley McAra tell us how a love affair with Edinburgh when she was a student meant she never left.
|Professor Lesley McAra
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I chose Edinburgh because I wanted to come to a Scottish University, since I was an expat Scot living in Hull as a child. Also, I thought that Edinburgh was both a beautiful and exciting city.
I came to do a German degree but fell in love with political philosophy and swapped programmes at the end of my second year, and then met and fell in love with my future husband (a graduate of the Moray House School of Education) at the end of my third year. I’ve lived in Edinburgh ever since.
My favourite memories include my first minutes in Edinburgh and seeing a poster in Lee House at Pollock Halls advertising ‘An Evening of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll’. My dad blanched but I was an 18 year old ingénue and thought,
Yes, I’ve come to the right university!
I also remember the student parties in Marchmont, when we could walk along the street and listen out for music and gate-crash any one, and, of course, graduation. The honours politics students suddenly realised it was the last time we would all be together; this felt so poignant but we were very proud to be graduates of this great institution.
I wore my future father-in-law’s MA gown to the graduation, as he was an English Literature graduate at Edinburgh. When I became a lecturer in 1995 I wore it to process in the first graduation I attended, and I also wore it at my inaugural lecture in 2009, all with a huge sense of family pride and history - despite the gown now being full of holes.
Summers were always spent working in Jenner’s (mostly in the menswear department), which I loved.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
I am currently the Head of the Law School at the University of Edinburgh, and the first woman to hold that office. I also hold the Chair of Penology.
My career began as a part-time tutor at the Open University. My first full-time job was as a Research Officer in the Central Research Unit in the, then, Scottish Office. I took up a lectureship in Criminology at the University of Edinburgh in 1995, was promoted to senior lecturer in 2005 and then to Professor in 2009.
The transformative power of legal education and the capacity of research to support and promote positive social and legal change, place particular responsibilities on our scholarly community.
I am Co-Director (with Professor Susan McVie) of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a research programme tracking the lives of a cohort of 4,300 young people.
In 2013, I was joint recipient (with Susan) of the Howard League Research Medal which celebrates high quality research from ‘new thinking’ and ‘radical researchers’ who have changed penal policy and practice.
It has been a great privilege to serve the University of Edinburgh and the School of Law. How the modern University performs is of major significance to the nation and to the wider world. The transformative power of legal education and the capacity of research to support and promote positive social and legal change, place particular responsibilities on our scholarly community.
I have a huge affection for the University and in my career have always sought to do all that I can, in whatever small way, to utilise its institutional capital in the service of the public good.
Glass ceilings are there to be broken: with an Edinburgh education you can accomplish anything.