The Interview UK
The University of Glasgow
Vice Principal of Learning & Teaching

Moira Fischbacher-Smith

When an institution is working towards long-term goals and commitments with restraints on funding, as is the case in Higher Education (HE), professionals need to find new ways to get things done.

Moira Fischbacher-Smith, Vice Principal of Learning & Teaching at the University of Glasgow, sees collaborative efforts between teams and individuals as the key to success, bringing together creative thinking and alternative perspectives to create real change. Moira sat down with Charles Sin, Co-host of The Interview, to discuss how she does it.

Moira's Journey

Charles: Let’s start with an introduction to your current role and institution.

I’m responsible for leading the development and implementation of the learning and teaching strategy and for oversight of educational policy and quality, and I work with colleagues that oversee policy for academic integrity and standards.

Charles: What brought you to your role?

I never imagined that this would be my role. I was a research assistant initially after working for the NHS for three years when I left university before coming into education. It was through tutoring as a PhD student that I started to really enjoy working with students. I did one course that involved working with students that were less successful and hadn't met the grades to progress to the final years of their honours degree. I worked with them to build up their confidence and help them achieve — that was very rewarding.

After I was appointed as lecturer, I got more involved in class coordination and became increasingly interested in shaping education and enhancing teaching and learning. I was very fortunate to have a huge set of opportunities here that let me do that.

Charles: How do you foster a sense of inclusion and belonging at Glasgow?

I am very involved in raising awareness of inclusivity, and it’s a core value within everything that we try to do. We have an accessible and inclusive learning policy, and both my colleagues and the student population are very committed to that and to inclusivity more broadly.

I’ve worked with students to figure out what this means for learning and teaching. Specifically for Students of Colour, for example; we’ve had some initiatives on decolonising the curriculum, and a lot of that has been led by students. I’m the university LGBT+ champion, so I support a range of initiatives to be more inclusive and ensure that we comply with equality obligations, and I support LGBT role models who want to be there to support their peers too.

A core part of our strategy is around student-centred active learning which is key for helping students to connect to one another within their studies, and for that reason, we placed a premium on first-year students having priority access to spaces that allow for that interaction and community building.

Charles: How has your role changed in the almost 30 years since you started working at the University of Glasgow?

We are a lot bigger, we have a lot more postgraduate students and a much larger student and staff community with more partnerships across the world. The whole scale of what we do has changed.

I'd say that students’ lives are a lot more complex now, and there are more stresses and time constraints on them, especially post-pandemic. The world looks different in terms of employment prospects, skills, and the fact that they won’t necessarily stay in the same job for life anymore. It creates a very different context for supporting students. We have adjusted our focus on an ongoing basis during the last 30 years, and we have matured considerably in how we work with students. The Student Representative Council is the formal representative council here at Glasgow, and its officers are completely embedded in the institution. They have a huge say in our policies and decision-making, which has become more important than ever for us.

Charles: What impact has your research had on the work that you do now?

My research has mainly been on health and social care, moving into broader first-responder services in some work, and maintaining a focus on partnerships and networks. This reflects my own beliefs: collaboration between individuals, teams and communities allows everyone to bring their own strengths to any problem and be much more creative. This applies to any sector, especially the ones that are fighting for funding; we need to be creative in how we spend our time and resources and in thinking about the differences we make, and this happens when we come together.

We are here to serve, just like in any public sector role; our research and teaching can transform lives and solve world challenges. Students trust us at a time of significant transition, so I see my role as making that as positive and purposeful as possible.

We are here to serve, just like in any public sector role; our research and teaching can transform lives and solve world challenges. Students trust us at a time of significant transition, so I see my role as making that as positive and purposeful as possible.

Charles: How do you raise awareness around issues of student safety and inclusion?

Many members of senior management here have champion roles for EDI initiatives. We have a dedicated EDI committee, so it’s a really big priority for us. Within those remits, we recognise that a big part of our job is promoting respect among colleagues and students, sometimes dealing with harassment and frequently promoting safety and community on campus.

We recently commissioned a report on gender-based violence which we have made public. All colleagues were able to contribute to this, and it looked into our policies and the way we operate in order to find where we can improve. We commissioned a similar report on racism too, with the same goal. We felt it was really important to make those reports public and be upfront about the issues we face, and we responded to the reports with plans of action and support so that we could face the issues head-on.

Quick-fire Question

Charles: What is your top tip for engaging students on topics like EDI?

I believe that the vast majority of my colleagues and students care deeply about EDI, but perhaps find it difficult to speak about topics where they worry they may say the wrong thing or unintentionally cause upset. For me, it’s about creating an open environment where we can speak about EDI matters and get better together — it’s not easy, but it’s really important. So my advice is to take the time to create opportunities where people can start important conversations and get comfortable discussing difficult topics with the appropriate support to help build understanding.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Charles Sin
Charles works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in higher education. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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