Since being chosen as 2019 -2021 Cumberland Lodge Scholar I have been fortunate enough to attend three events: the Cumberland Lodge Annual Debate, the Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives Symposium and the International and Commonwealth Student Christmas Conference. All three were based around the Lodge’s 2019 -2020 theme of Inclusion and Opportunity. Below are some personal reflections on these events and why other PhD students, at the University of Hull, and across the UK, should consider getting involved with this fantastic charity.
The Cumberland Lodge Annual Debate, 7 November 2019
The Lodge’s Annual Debate, held at Goodenough College, London, explored new challenges for democracy in today’s digital age. The panellists at this event were the RT Hon. the Lord Howell of Guildford, Dr Katherine Dommett, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield and Marnie Howlett, PhD candidate at L.S.E. In a digital age characterised by both unprecedented access to information and the prevalence of fake news and misinformation, the debate generated timely and relevant discussion around potential digital transformations required to safeguard democracy and develop a new sense national direction and purpose. In my opinion, the most interesting ideas to come out of the discussion, were how we, in period of great apathy, can encourage and promote greater political participation via the digital and how we can better use digital technology to make democracy more inclusive for all.
The Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives Symposium, 1 – 3 December 2019
At the beginning of December, the Lodge, in partnership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the British Council, and the Commonwealth Secretariat, hosted a symposium to explore youth priorities for Commonwealth futures. The event provided delegates with a platform to discuss two themes of the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), to be held in Rwanda: ICT and Innovation, and the Rule of Law.
We first heard from academics and professionals, in the fields of law, computer science and artificial intelligence, whose talks inspired us to consider global challenges facing the Commonwealth, such as access to justice and ICT. Separating into groups, we then focused on developing innovative, inspiring and tangible solutions to address these problems. My group’s solution focused on creating a cross-Commonwealth university research project to explore inequalities in access to ICT, and how, through the sharing of knowledge participating Commonwealth universities may aid each other to promote increased digital literacy and safe access to ICT. We spent that evening in London, at the Cyprus High Commission, at a reception to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.
On the final day, the student groups presented their solutions to representatives of the ACU, the British Council, the Commonwealth Secretariat and H.E. Yamina Karitanyi, UK High Commissioner for Rwanda. I was amazed by the variety and quality of solutions produced. Overall, the event highlighted the fundamental role student leadership can play in promoting social cohesion. The symposium’s outcomes will directly contribute to the 2020 Commonwealth Youth Forum, ahead of CHOGM, and the British Council’s ‘Going Global 2020’ conference in London, both taking place in June 2020.
The International and Commonwealth Student Christmas Conference, 18 – 20 December 2019
The final conference I attended in 2019 was Lodge’s annual Christmas Conference. Like the other events, the conference focused around digital inclusion and opportunity and, over the course of two days, we discussed topics ranging from artificial intelligence and ethics to whether we, as a society, need a digital etiquette. The atmosphere at this conference was both festive and uplifting, with students from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures coming together to explore pressing societal and ethical issues, as well as enjoy British Christmas traditions. I particularly enjoyed the carol service we attended at the Royal Chapel – it was really moving to hear students of different nationalities sing the same carol, but in their own language. For me, this conference really embodied the ethos and vision of the Lodge, as well as the spirit of Christmas.
Why you should apply to be a Cumberland Lodge Scholar?
If you have reached this point and are still wondering why you should apply to be a Cumberland Lodge Scholar, then allow me to elaborate further. The best thing about being a scholar is the opportunity it gives you to participate in discussions outside of your area of research. As a PhD researcher you become an expert in a very specific area within your discipline and rarely get the chance to engage in inter-disciplinary conversations. Being a scholar enables you to do just that; over the last four months I have had the privilege of being able participate in many stimulating conversations far removed from of my field of expertise. Such conversations have not only broadened my horizons and developed my understanding of complex topics, but they have also allowed me to engage in meaningful inter-disciplinary dialogue concerning pressing social and ethical issues facing both the UK and the world. As scholars we also get the opportunity to network with people from all walks of life, from senior figures in politics to member of grassroots and charity organisations and participate in discussions that ultimately inform recommendations for practical and policy change. Finally, being a scholar gives you the opportunity to develop your public engagement, communications and event facilitation skills, valuable assets for a career in academia, industry or elsewhere.