Dean International for Europe: Interview with our outgoing and incoming Deans
Professor Drew Scott reflects on his experiences and achievements as Dean International for Europe, while Dr Chad Damro looks to the future as he begins his new role at this crucial time.
The role of the Dean International for Europe supports the Vice-Principal International, Professor James Smith, to achieve the University’s global objectives across the three key areas: Global Community, Global Exchange and Global Partnership, with specific focus on the European region.
Drew Scott’s appointment to the role was part of a wide-ranging re-vamp of the University’s international strategy under the leadership of Professor Stephen Hillier, then Vice Principal International in 2009. Drew’s academic career spans an impressive 40 years, with Europe and the European Union specifically, being at the heart of his teaching and research for the duration.
Picking out highlights from over 40 years of academic life is difficult and risks not a little self-indulgence! But as I’m sure many academics will agree many of the most memorable moments have been gifted to me by our students. Whether in seminar discussions with first year students or in doctoral supervisions, I have never ceased to learn from and be inspired by my students.
Chad Damro is moving into the role as Dean International for Europe. Chad has always had a keen interest in Europe, which has been the central focus of his professional career and academic research. This has led him to engage in multiple ways with European universities, including visiting research and teaching stays at universities in seven European countries as well as serving for a decade as a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
I look forward to using my experiences at the University of Edinburgh – including as Co-Director of our Europa Institute, Academic Convenor of our FUTURES Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and lead for European Studies in our Una Europa alliance – to help me support the University’s strategic plan for Europe and to complement internal and external efforts at enriching our future European activities and engagement.
We spoke more with both Drew and Chad about this important role, their experiences, and what the UK’s changing relationship with the EU means for the University.
Drew, as outgoing International Dean, how do you reflect on your experience in the role? "It was a tremendous initiative to be part of, and I was delighted to form a close working relationship both with Steve and colleagues across Edinburgh Global for whom I quickly formed the highest respect. During these early years in which the strategy was developed and rolled out, I was particularly pleased to be involved with developing our collaborations within the League of European Research University (LERU) network – a network that has proven immensely valuable to the University over the years. At the same time colleagues across Edinburgh Global have worked tirelessly to grow our bilateral links with partners across Europe, and to engage productively with other key networks including the Coimbra Group and UNICA."
"Among the real recent successes is the University’s participation in Una Europa, an alliance of eight leading European Universities established under the EU-led European Universities Initiative. This offers an exciting framework for the development of new joint activities that will benefit both our researchers and our students, and congratulations are due to colleagues in Edinburgh Global for bringing this venture to successful fruition."
"Brexit has undoubtedly posed the greatest challenge to our international endeavours that I have witnessed. As one of the UK’s leading participants in EU funded research over many years, and as a University that has benefitted enormously from the unimpeded cross-border flow of researchers from across the EU, Brexit has required us to quickly adapt to a fundamentally new environment. I have been hugely impressed by the commitment shown by colleagues both in Edinburgh Global and across key areas of our European engagement in rising to the challenges of Brexit, supporting our staff and students, and – crucially – in taking forward initiatives that not only will mitigate aspects of Brexit but offer new opportunities for collaborations with our leading European partners."
Chad, what are your visions for the role coming in afresh at a crucial time?
"I foresee the Dean International Europe playing a very important role in developing and implementing our University’s strategic plan for Europe as well as representing the University externally in such activities through academic associations and engagement with policymakers. While Edinburgh has a strong tradition of working with Europe, the continent is arguably even more important today than it was just a year ago. Crucially, our sustained relations require constant attention and coordination at the local level, across the entire University of Edinburgh."
"Increasingly, and given the shared challenges we face, we also benefit from working closely with our British counter-part universities to develop sector-wide policy and approaches for academic relations with Europe. Of course, we also must continue to connect directly with our European partners, which includes strengthening ties with universities in EU members as well as European universities in countries that – like the UK – are not members of the EU."
Drew, as a European University what does the UK’s changing relationship mean for us?
"The University of Edinburgh has some of the most outstanding researchers in the world whose contributions truly shape, and re-shape, for the better the world in which we live. Most, if not all, of these individuals participate in international research networks and collaborations across Europe and beyond. It would be wrong to state the UK’s changed relationship with the EU will have no impact on these activities, but equally we should not overstate the impact that will be felt. The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top research Universities and will continue to be so. That said, the decision that UK Universities will continue to participate in the EU Horizon research programme, including eligibility for the European Research Council awards, is welcome news allowing as it does our researchers to continue to collaborate with colleagues across the European Research Area. We have been very successful in the competition for EU research funds, part of which is attributable to the tremendous support our academics have from colleagues in the University’s European Research Office, and we certainly intend to be as competitive as ever in bidding for future funds under the new Horizon Europe programme."
"But there will be challenges, including maintaining as far as possible an unimpeded flow of research colleagues between Edinburgh and our European partner universities, not least at post-Doc and junior researcher levels."
"Like many across the University I personally am dismayed the UK will no longer participate in the EU Erasmus+ exchange programme – a programme to which this University has contributed immensely since its inception, and from which many generations of our students and staff have benefitted. We await full details of the UK scheme that will supersede our participation in Erasmus+ which was not included in the new UK-EU relationship. Erasmus+ offered both our students and staff a truly European-wide framework for experiencing a different learning environment, and for developing valuable friendships and collaborations that frequently lasted many years. The University is in the fortunate position that it can continue to engage in the current Erasmus+ Programme until May 2023 but beyond this, replicating the breadth and depth offered by Erasmus+ will be a challenge, although one I am confident this University will rise to."
Chad, same question to you, as a European University what does the UK’s changing relationship mean for us? "Edinburgh has long been a proud and successful member of the European Higher Education Area, sharing core values and interests with our European partners. Despite the challenging times, these shared values and interests remain. Activities and experiences in Europe are – and will continue to be – central components of some of our degree programmes. Given the UK’s changing relationship with the continent, we need to remain steadfast in our efforts to sustain and expand collaboration with Europe’s world-leading universities and their renowned research traditions."
"To seize opportunities with Europe, we must understand the diverse needs and objectives of Edinburgh students and staff across all our Colleges. This will require an active and concerted effort by colleagues from across the University’s professional services and academic staff, as well as a leading role for the exceptional Europe Regional Team located in Edinburgh Global."
Professor Drew Scott has played a hugely important role in successfully developing collaborations and joint activities across Europe over his years as International Dean for Europe and we thank him wholeheartedly for his invaluable contribution. It is clear that the University will continue to face some challenges with the UK’s changing relationship with the EU, however, Dr Chad Damro is set to take the lead on forwarding initiatives that will not only mitigate aspects of Brexit but offer new opportunities for collaborations with our European partners.
Get in touch with our Europe Regional Team