GCU London Dean Antony Morgan is having capital impact. Craig G Telfer reports.
Professor Antony Morgan has thrown himself into the role of Dean of GCU London. Having originally taken on the position on an interim basis in January 2016, he was awarded the post in October of the same year and is determined to create an environment where people can thrive.
“I always liked managing a team and finding ways for talented people to grow,” he says, explaining why he took the post. “There has been a steep learning curve – even if you’ve got vast experience of working in organisations, each one has its own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies and you have to find out how it works and how to come up with solutions. I enjoy that.
“The Common Good is one of the reasons why I’m here – I believe in the Common Good and our ability as a higher education-institution to contribute to society. That’s got to be the bottom line for me. Whatever we do, we have to think about what impact we have on our local environment, here in Tower Hamlets for example, and the wider society, whether that’s in the UK or further afield. Working together with colleagues in Glasgow to develop opportunities for the Common Good has got to be a high priority.”
Antony has enjoyed a wide and varied career in public health. Despite having trained as an applied chemist, he moved into the NHS in the early 80s and took on a number of posts at local, regional and national level. Antony had roles at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) before joining GCU London on a part-time secondment from NICE in 2012 until 2015.
“I was interested in teaching and giving something back to the next generation of public health professionals,” Antony says on his move from industry to academia. “I want my students to think about how they can contribute to creating a world that allows people to grow, be successful and have good health and wellbeing, irrespective of where they come from and what their background is.”
He describes public health as “the science and art of helping people to do well for themselves and others to foster happy and healthy lives”. “Understanding the societal concerns necessary to facilitate this is at the core of what we teach at GCU, and it links back with the Common Good,” he adds.
Antony, who joined GCU London on a full-time basis in 2015, talks enthusiastically about his colleagues and their willingness to make the campus the best it can be. “The size of the campus helps facilitate conversations and opens up all sorts of possibilities for cross-disciplinary working. The links that many of my colleagues have with industry is second to none, and this supports our ability to provide a great student experience and open up opportunities for future employment prospects.”
Away from work, Antony enjoys spending time in the countryside, going to the theatre and writing poetry. His great passion, however, is flamenco dancing, which he studied intensively in the 90s and 2000s. He has even donned his flamenco boots in public – but you’d have to ask him for the specifics.
“I’m probably the most famous flamenco dancer from Rochdale,” he laughs. “It’s a great way to relax, in a stomping sort of way, and put work aside for a moment. Taking dance classes in Seville and Granada in Spain has also opened up work connections – my colleagues from the University of Seville and the Andalusian School of Public Health are always a little bit stunned, amused and perturbed by my Spanish dancing skillset!”
Looking to the future, Antony is keen to embrace the challenges facing GCU London. “The whole higher-education sector is going through difficulties around student numbers, particularly international students,” he says. “The vast majority of students at GCU London are international and we’ve got to continually find innovative ways of making the campus as desirable and attractive an option for people looking to study in London. Colleagues, particularly those in professional services, have worked hard to reverse the downward trend in applications and we have strategies in place to continue this.”
Antony is also looking to ensure that GCU London finds ways of fostering stronger links between the London campus and Glasgow. “Strong partnerships are imperative to our growth and success,” he explains. “Finding ways of working together so that GCU London is seen as part of the family can only be a good thing for everyone.”