Prof. Penny Jane Burke named UNESCO Chair in Equity, Social Justice and Higher Education
1 February 2023, Bangkok, Thailand – Professor Penny Jane Burke, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) at the University of Newcastle, has been appointed UNESCO Chair in Equity, Social Justice and Higher Education, effective 9 January 2023.
UNESCO Chairs in education partner with institutions across the globe to address pressing challenges, reduce inequalities, and improve equitable access to education, a globally-prestigious role that will see her working especially to improve the lives of traditionally marginalised groups, including victim-survivors of gender-based violence.
Professor Burke, who has over two decades of distinguished achievement in the field of equity, social justice and higher education, said she was thrilled that her role with UNESCO would extend the work of the CEEHE in ‘[mobilizing] higher education to address the challenging conditions that undermine progress toward reducing inequalities, gender equality and quality education for all’, and help to ‘make a real difference to communities facing social, cultural, political and environmental injustice.’
Professor Burke further noted that her new appointment will enable her and the CEEHE to continue ‘to challenge the concrete barriers and insidious inequalities that greatly undermine access to and participation in higher education and significantly improve the life chances of communities navigating social inequality, including victim-survivors of gender-based violence.’
Activity through the UNESCO Chair role will include co-creating, with community organisations and representatives, an Australia-Ghana Best Practice Hub, to understand how gender-based violence (GBV) impacts access to higher education and to develop the necessary resources and mechanisms to alleviate the damaging effects of GBV. A peer-mentoring program will be extended to generate collective work in improving gender equity across different contexts.
Dr Gifty Oforiwaa Gyamera, a lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) who has worked closely with Professor Burke, commented on Burke’s appointment as a UNESCO Chair and its implications for further addressing gender inequities in Ghana:
I am so glad that we in Ghana will be able to benefit from the programme. I want to congratulate Professor Burke and the CEEHE team and express our deepest appreciation for Penny for her initiative and how she has been able to assist in addressing gender inequities in Ghana.
Mr Libing Wang, Chief of Section, Education Innovation and Skills Development (EISD) of UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, Bangkok, extended his heartiest congratulations to Professor Burke and commented,
The launch of the new UNESCO Chair will help create a critical mass of expertise, enhance the joint research on equity-related issues in higher education and contribute to evidence-based policies and practices in the region. Along with all our global colleagues at UNESCO, we in Asia-Pacific are delighted by the news of Professor Burke’s appointment and look forward to contributing new South-South perspectives
Image credit: Penny Jane Burke stands in front of video artwork Freefall 2021 by Izabella Pluta at the Nihilartikel Exhibition, University Galleries, Newcastle. Photographed by Edwina Richards.