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What does leadership look like?

22 Feb 2021 | Dr Rosemary K Clyne In the fourth blog in our series from contributors to the 'Employability: breaking the mould' case study compendium, Senior Lecturer Dr Rosemary Clyne shares her approach to extracurricular skills development as founder and lead of the Future Global Leaders Forum at Queen Mary University of London.

The Future Global Leaders Forum

Evaluation of data from questionnaires and focus groups indicated that international students were seeking further opportunities for work experience and interacting with staff outside of taught sessions.

I sought to develop an initiative that would begin to address these expectations, while also promoting purposeful engagement of international students with UK peers. Thus, the Future Global Leaders Forum student-staff partnership scheme was born.

‘...merged my passion and career goals together.’

The Forum was an institution-wide initiative for students to develop skills and take on leadership through work experience projects. Team-based project work was supplemented with a programme of leadership, skills development and networking sessions.

To engage a diverse cohort bringing a wide range of perspectives to the project tasks, the Forum was open for all students on the London campuses to apply. Selection for participation was based on personal statements, rather than academic achievement.

In the 2020 programme, twenty-five nationalities and every Queen Mary School were represented, which promoted both cultural and academic discipline diversity within teams. Partnership also enabled students and staff, who might otherwise not encounter one another, to work together on shared goals.

‘As a student struggling with social situations, these experiences created a great impact in my life.’

  • Students engaging with the Forum activities reported a transformational growth in self-confidence
  • They were challenged to think beyond their subject discipline about issues of wider relevance
  • Cultural understanding was fostered through diverse teams and local community engagement
  • Participation and experience were documented for future employment.

‘An inspiring visit … encouraged me not to shy from any role of being a female leader.‘

Survey respondents who completed the pilot programme wanted to ‘see what leadership looks like’, so I devised a bespoke shadowing scheme for the second cohort.  These visits engaged students with distinguished leaders across London in a wide array of sectors, including a diverse group of Queen Mary alumni. ‘Leadership shadowing’ was a successful model for meaningful engagement of students with external organisations and individuals for unique insights into careers and leadership.

‘This initiative helps students, like me, find a voice within university of thousands.’  

The Future Global Leaders Forum was grounded in the diversity of Queen Mary, where our students and staff come from many different backgrounds.  Working in teams across disciplines and cultures on meaningful projects ‘added richness to the overall experience’ and was seen as an effective way to develop skills and knowledge.

Working in partnership with organisations in their local campus community also helped students to understand and contribute solutions to real challenges facing society. With a focus on students engaging with diverse team members, campus staff, and the local London borough, the Future Global Leaders Forum was distinctly Queen Mary.

What employability initiatives have had the most impact in your institution or department?


Rosemary Clyne is Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences on the Nanchang Joint Programme, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. She founded and implemented the Future Global Leaders Forum In her role as the university’s Academic Lead for International Student Experience.

Future Global Leaders Forum

The Future Global Leaders Forum was a skills development work experience programme that embedded the university context, with students working in diverse teams across disciplines, cultures, and year groups. Working on meaningful projects in partnership with staff on campus or with local organisations helped students to understand and contribute solutions to real-world challenges.

To find out more about the Future Global Leaders Forum, download the 'Employability: breaking the mould' case study compendium.


The deadline for paper submissions for 'Employability Symposium 2021: 3E's for Wicked Problems' closes at midnight, 25 February 2021, find out more and submit your abstract here.

Find out more about Advance HE's work to support institutions prepare graduates for life beyond higher education through effectively embedding employability both in the curriculum and within extra-curricular provision.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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