Q&A with Muriel Gray

We speak to the Glasgow School of Art’s recently appointed chair of the board of governors. Plus the latest higher education appointments

October 24, 2013

Source: McAteer Photo

Last month, the Glasgow School of Art announced that author and broadcaster Muriel Gray - a GSA graphic design and illustration graduate - would be the first female chair of its board of governors.

Where and when were you born?
I was born in 1958 in East Kilbride, on the outskirts of Glasgow.

How has this shaped you?
I’m Glaswegian through and through, hence we had the work ethic and the mantra “don’t get above yourself” drummed into us. This is good and bad. It may be grounding, but it also has the pernicious effect of sometimes increasing self-criticism to unhelpful levels.

How does it feel to be the first female chair?
I’m utterly thrilled, although it seems a little ridiculous that it’s taken this long to happen. It’s the greatest honour, and I’ll work hard to live up to it.

Did being an alumna help to sway your decision to accept?
It had everything to do with it. The school has always been a major part of my life, even before I was lucky enough to be accepted as a student.

What does higher education mean to you?
Higher education has always represented freedom to me, the liberation of ideas and the stepping stone to opportunity, not just in terms of employment and fulfilment, but for the improvement of self and the world at large.

Have you had a eureka moment?
When I discovered that telling a child that the women on supermarket checkouts are good and bad witches, and that we have to guess which is which by watching for secret signs, stops a tantrum. Note: You may have to switch supermarkets with inconvenient regularity.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Dear younger self. In 1975, a sweet, red, sticky, wine-based drink called Dubonnet will cost only 6p a double in the Glasgow University Men’s Union extension bar. Do not drink it.

What are the best and worst things about your job?
My current job is mostly as a writer. The best thing about it is having written. The worst thing about it is writing.

What keeps you awake at night?
The newly arrived kitten, which has taken to enthusiastically walking on the heads of those asleep between the hours of 3am and 6am.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
From about the age of seven I wanted to be a freelance illustrator, live in London’s Carnaby Street and drive an open-topped sports car. I became a professional illustrator, drove a Fiat 500 and lived in a bedsit in Leith.

Tell us about a book, show, film or piece of music that you love
I couldn’t possibly single out favourites. I love something new all the time. Oh all right then…Things lately that have been wonderful: Breaking Bad, Alan Cumming’s one man Macbeth, author Elizabeth Strout, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, the Glasgow School of Art choir, Under the Skin, The Book of Mormon, Nile Rodgers, Woody Allen.

What do you do for fun?
I try to extract fun from everything I do, however mundane. But for formalised fun it has to be something outdoors, probably involving a kayak, mountains, snow or water. We also fly fish. And I stare for hours at trees. Hours and hours and hours.

Scottish independence or stay part of the UK?
I’ll decide when the debate begins in earnest. So far it’s been an ugly, tribal slanging match of profound stupidity. Looking forward to when grown-ups finally decide to get involved, and we can engage intelligently with the issue. It’ll be disappointing if that doesn’t happen soon.



Four leading legal scholars have been appointed academic fellows of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. James Goudkamp, University of Oxford, Barbara Lauriat, King’s College London, David Lowe, Liverpool John Moores University, and Maksymilian Del Mar, Queen Mary, University of London, have been selected to take up the three-year roles.

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry has made two promotions. Dental director Malcolm Bruce has been made associate professor (senior lecturer) and Richard Byng is now professor in primary care research.

Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and co-director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, has been awarded the A. SK Social Science Award by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. The award is bestowed every other year in recognition of work towards political or social reform.

Bucks New University has appointed Barbara Dexter to the new role of director of learning and teaching. Professor Dexter joins from Victoria University of Wellington, where she was director of the Centre for Academic Development.

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