Inside King's: A global perspective from the heart of London 

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’Funmi speaking at the King’s alumni US tour 2018

Professor ’Funmi is Professor of Security, Leadership & Development at King’s College London. She is also Founding Director of the African Leadership Centre (ALC).

Appointed Vice President and Vice Principal (International) in December 2017, Professor Olonisakin (MA War Studies, 1990; PhD War Studies, 1996) is responsible for all international matters at King’s, encompassing student experience, research and partnerships.

In this article, she discusses the challenges faced by a leading international university, the global issues that King’s hopes to address, and her mission to develop future African leaders with the African Leadership Centre.

Developing an International University

‘Typically, people see internationalisation in terms of taking a year to study  abroad, but the real nugget, as far as I’m concerned, is the transformation that we can create here in London, without travelling abroad. This means using the perspectives of our students who travel here from other countries, and encouraging interaction with home students.

‘We’re aiming to achieve a greater impact through our international partnerships, and I often reflect on the best ways to transform the idea of internationalisation at King’s.’

Creating global change

‘King’s is very well placed, through both knowledge generation and the transfer of expertise, to mediate global challenges. It’s an exciting time to be at King’s. There is a huge diversity of ideas and talents that line the walls of this institution.

‘For me, the big question is “how do we build something that makes us more than the sum of our parts?” Of course, the answer is by being stronger, working together internally, collaborating, and putting together the knowledge we have to influence the larger world.

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Global issues

‘I worked at the United Nations (UN) between 1999 and 2003, and issues we discussed at the time have become even more amplified.

‘For me, the top issues globally are security, technology and population. The nature of the state is changing, transnational agencies are assuming greater power, and technology is advancing, sometimes disrupting societies.

‘Most important, always, are people themselves. You can see that demographics are changing in every society. In Africa, for example, it’s about the only region where the population will continue to grow until around 2050.  Four out of the seven most populous nations in the world are likely to be from Africa in 2050, according to UN predictions. These are issues that we can influence here at King’s, through our research and international partnerships.’

Building leaders for Africa

‘During my time at the UN, I saw that Africa was poorly represented across the organisation and on the UN Security Council. Young people in general, but especially young Africans, were not represented. Most representatives were also male.

‘So we endeavour to bring up to 10 young African women and men to King’s through the ALC every year, and see how we can take postgraduates with a  sense of the change they want to make, immerse them in peace and security studies, and attach them to real institutions in Africa, where decisions around these issues are being taken.

‘My ambition is to use the ALC as a blueprint for developing a global leadership programme targeting change-making students across all disciplines and all regions of the world.’