Tim Gore, OBE, is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the University of London Institute in Paris.
Can you briefly go through your education and career? When did your life acquire a Franco-British dimension?
My first degree was Archaeological Sciences. After this, I volunteered in Sudan and started teaching there without a teaching background. I liked it and decided to study for professional teaching qualiications leading up to an MA in Applied Linguistics. I worked as a language teacher for several years then became interested in the business side of communications and completed an MBA moving into the management and leadership of British Council operations around the world.
The Franco-British connection originated when I met my wife in London in 1983. My wife is French, from the South-West of France. Since then, I’ve had a strong connection with France. We used to come to France every year. Part of my family lives in the South of France and we’ve had a house there for a long time. My wife and I have lived in several countries throughout the years. I worked with the British Council and we’ve lived in Egypt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Jordan, India and the UK. We always connected with the French community in each of these countries, through the Embassy, the Alliance Française, and so on.
What is the appeal of the University of London Institute in Paris to French and British students?
We have a very strong undergraduate programme in French Studies, which is basically a Liberal Arts degree taught in French. It is a unique programme, taught almost entirely in French. Studying in Paris gives our students an advantage in comparison to students studying French in the UK. Our students are immersed in the language and culture. We have a variety of components in the curriculum that encourage our students to experience the culture of Paris: the arts, music, museums, festivals etc. Students can choose to study a degree in French Studies wit minors in business, history or international relations.
We also have postgraduate programmes. We have an LLM Master of Law programme with the University of Queen Mary in London. This degree is also offered as a dual degree programme with Sorbonne University. We have an MA in International Relations, which is a Queen Mary programme as well. We have another new programme which is starting in September, an MA in Urban History and Culture, which is a joint qualification with QMUL, and can be completed in both Paris and London.
We are a small international community, with 200 students which represent more than 50 nationalities. The atmosphere here is friendly, teachers are very involved.
Do you think that there are major differences in academia in France and in Britain?
Definitely. There are some similarities and they are both complimentary to each other but there is a different pedagogical and philosophical tradition. Adfmission policies differ quite markedly between France and UK and this sets the tone for higher education but there are also deeper rooted approaches and philosophies. One thing that I can point out is that French students are expected to spend more time in the classrooms than British students. The British education system is centred on independent studying. Autonomy is very important. French universities have a slower progression towards autonomy.
How do you envisage Franco-British cooperation at the university level?
There is a lot of Franco-British cooperation at the university level. Research is the area where there is probably most cooperation. This is something that needs to continue after Brexit. British research is very networked into Europe. Europe is a very strong part of the collaborative research the UK is involved in. In terms of joint-teaching, there are many joint programmes. There are a few dual degrees available between French and British universities. Sciences Po for example, has many partnerships with UK universities.
Are you familiar with the career prospects of former students? What potential careers can a French Studies degree offer?
The undergraduate French Studies degree gives a very broad-based education. Bilingual communication skills and inter-cultural skills are very strong. Students also graduate with a strong understanding of history. This enables students to pursue careers in a variety of fields. Our students go into marketing, human resources, business, law, civil service or diplomacy, broadcasting, media… There is a wide range of career prospects.
Recently in the press, there were rumours about Oxford and Cambridge opening campuses in France, what would be your advice to them?
The important thing to think about is why you’re doing something. You need to have very clear objectives about what you’re trying to achieve, and any collaborations you develop. Brexit poses a challenge to UK universities to maintain strong teaching, research and mobility relationships with European universities. Most UK universities have a well-developed international strategy. Most of them are trying to achieve a very diverse international student population, and they want to make sure that that is as diverse as possible. They don’t want to rely uniquely on an Asian audience or European audience. It is important to think about where the students are coming from. The research relationship is very important. When a university is thinking of setting a branch here, as these universities are starting to do, first, they need to be clear on why they’re doing that, and what are it is that they are trying to achieve or replace.
It is also really important to think long-term. We have been here for 130 years. It is very difficult to create very positive outcomes in a very short period. I think this is true in the European relationship and our education, the benefits tend to come over longer periods. In many ways Europen countries are quite familiar to us, to the UK, and we feel like home. It is easy to think that we are very familiar, because we all belong within the European framework, were all within commonly related qualifications frameworks, and so on. It is quite easy to downplay the differences, but the differences are quite important as well. There are some quite substantial differences; the way universities are run, the way student consider universities, the way that financing works, the way that human resources laws work, the way that academics work… It is important to understand all of that and that is a type of knowledge that comes with time. Again, it comes back to a longer-term engagement with Europe and very clear objectives.
From a legal perspective, it is also important to receive good advice. I would have thought that partnerships are easier to develop than stand-alone campuses, which can be quite difficult, expensive and carry higher levels of risk.
Interviewed by Eugenia Esteva Vegas
Franco-British Portrait Gallery