During times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, public governance is more important than ever. Immediate and ongoing responses by countries around the world have a critical impact on how people experience the pandemic, and on any subsequent recovery. Our researchers and staff are exploring global leadership surrounding the current situation, focusing on children’s rights, social media use and the UK government’s strategic preparations for COVID-19.

You can read more about our research on governance in the subsections below.


COVID-19 and authoritarians

Accountability, responsibility, and solidarity at the intersection of democratic and authoritarian governance facing the Covid-19 pandemic

Professor in International Politics Umut Korkut explored accountability, responsibility, and solidarity as part of the Resilience and Reconstruction series of talks from GCNYC's Center for Social Impact and Innovation on Thursday 11 February 2021.

Exploring leadership in a pandemic

David Grad and Nalini Saxena discussed leadership in the first in the Resilience and Reconstruction series of talks hosted by the Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Glasgow Caledonian New York College (GCNYC).  The virtual speaker series brings together the GCU community around the globe to explore the impact of, and opportunities arising from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

David, a communications consultant, academic, entrepreneur and corporate leader, and Nalini, a strategist and executive advisor, discussed the topic "How Do We Lead in This Moment?", exploring how the crisis is testing values and leadership and how to navigate the new market realities at the event on 8 October 2020.

European leaders 'failed to promote COVID-19 advice' on Twitter

Political leaders across Europe failed to promote COVID-19 health guidelines on social media in the early days of the pandemic, according to a new academic study.  Researchers from GCU and two universities in Spain analysed the Twitter use of political leaders from countries in Europe most affected by coronavirus.  The study focused on images and videos posted by Johnson and WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom, as well as Emmanuel Macron, of France, Pedro Sánchez, of Spain, Giuseppe Conte, of Italy, and Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. 

The paper, entitled European leaders unmasked: COVID-19 communication strategy through Twitter, and published in Spanish journal El Profesional de la Información, stresses public communication is key in "slowing the spread of the virus and reducing the death rate". 

Study hails Jacinda Arden's use of social media during pandemic

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's warm and informal use of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped convey vital health messages in a clear and relatable way, according to a new study.   Communication experts claim the honesty and compassion shown by Ardern during live Q&A sessions and video diary updates from her family home created 'a team of five million' against the virus.  This week's three-day lockdown in Auckland ended a 102-day streak without a local infection in the country. Prime Minister Ardern's initial approach to the pandemic is now the subject of a research paper, co-authored by academics from GCU, Robert Gordon University, Edinburgh Napier, and the University of the West of Scotland.

The paper, published in the journal Human Resource Development International, analyses more than 40 speeches and public statements made by Prime Minister Ardern in March and April 2020.

Safety and preparations for pandemics

Exams should pass test on children's rights

Children's rights should be put at the heart of the school exam process in 2021 to protect pupils from the impact of COVID-19, according to GCU law lecturer Dr Tracy Kirk.  Dr Kirk, a leading campaigner for children's rights, has urged the Scottish Government to start drawing up contingency plans for youngsters due to sit exams next year.  Speaking about her work with youth-led group SQA: Where's Our Say? she said: "A children’s rights response going forward to ensure that the students of 2020/21 do not suffer as a result of COVID-19.  "This should take the form of a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment with decisions being made on an individual basis instead of a ranking system.  Children’s rights underpinning the process will prevent a repeat of the 2020 exam fiasco."​​


Professor Billy Hare has been working pro bono with North Ayrshire Council to provide help and advice to local businesses with respect to their COVID-19 planning and preparations for returning to work. The work has consisted of reviewing videos of workplaces, photos of measures put in place, and documentation covering policies and procedures. Billy has been giving feedback, signposting relevant guidance, and answering questions on how best to manage the risk of infection from COVID. One recommendation was to set up a webpage where their local business members can share good practice and help each other. This has been well recived and shared on social media as  the ‘COVID-19 Knowledge Hub’

Preparations for COVID-19

Professor Patrick Ring, Glasgow School for Business and Society has co-authored a research paper, published in the Journal of Risk Research with colleagues from Cass Business School, in London, Nottingham University, and Vlerick Business School in Belgium. The paper, which received extensive coverage in local and national press, claims that the UK government made key failings in its strategic preparations for COVID-19. Mistakes left stockpiles short of vital supplies and capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and testing, and piled pressure on the NHS. They argue the UK Government failed to act on systemic weaknesses highlighted through emergency exercises and should hand over future planning for health emergencies to an independent body:

Nuffield Council on Bioethics published on 18 June 2020 a briefing note COVID-19 antibody testing and ‘immunity certification’. Professor Cam Donaldson joined the discussion, as the only health economist) from which this briefing note was created:

Link to briefing:

Link to news item on our homepage:

Shaping the post pandemic future

Climate change more devastating than COVID-19

Climate change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study led by Glasgow Caledonian University's Centre for Climate Justice.

The study, which focused on the experiences of policymakers in climate-hit regions of sub-Saharan Africa, recommends that climate emergencies should require governments to keep the public informed in the same way they have during the pandemic, with real-time data given as it has been for infection rates, death tolls and vaccination numbers.

The study also concluded that funding for developing countries must not be stopped or curtailed despite the economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations.

The research consortium, which also included the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and academic partners in Africa, undertook the four-month project to explore the impact of COVID-19 on climate-change efforts by compiling case studies of policymakers from Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.

You can view the entire study here

Launch event announced for African climate study

Glasgow Caledonian University has won funding to share the testimonies of those hit hardest by COVID-19 and climate change at an international event.

The University's Centre for Climate Justice has been awarded funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh to demonstrate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in Africa and its implications for climate action, as well as the lived experiences of African communities.

The project, Raising African voices in Scotland: Towards ambitious and equitable climate policy, will build upon an existing research collaboration between the Centre and the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), and other partnerships with the African public.

The project has been informed by the findings of a recent study that has made key recommendations about how climate change should be treated post COVID-19 pandemic, and will get under way with a hybrid launch event in Nigeria on Tuesday, July 14.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the findings and recommendations of the study, gain a copy and first-look at the research report, and engage with an expert panel of researchers comprised from an international consortium involved in the study.

The study recorded the experiences of people in climate-hit regions of Sub-Saharan Africa during the pandemic, with the aim of changing future government and NGO thinking.

The Centre for Climate Justice undertook the four-month project with the PACJA to explore the impact of COVID-19 by compiling case studies from Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon and Morocco.

Stakeholders from Scotland, Africa, and the wider international community will be invited to attend and contribute to formulating position statements and policy actions that will feature in a consolidated report for dissemination among policymakers and COP negotiators in the runup to COP26 in Glasgow.

GCU to host second World Forum on Climate Justice

Climate recovery in the wake of COVID-19 and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be top of the agenda at the second World Forum on Climate Justice, to be held at Glasgow Caledonian University in September.

The event, organised by the University's Centre for Climate Justice, will take place as the planet is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and just two months before global leaders meet in Glasgow during COP26. The Forum's themes will reflect both of these topics, recognising the need to incorporate climate justice into global climate governance and the post-COVID-19 recovery. The event will be led by a keynote address from former Republic of Ireland President Dr Mary Robinson and other high-profile names are expected to be announced in the coming weeks..

GCU held the inaugural World Forum, in partnership with Elsevier, back in 2019. With hundred's attending and a strong line-up of speakers, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Dr Mary Robinson and Dr Kerry Kennedy, the event made a landmark contribution to the important discussion around the inequality of climate change and its impact.

Professor Tahseen Jafry, who is Conference Chair and Director of the Centre for Climate Justice, said: "On the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, we need to assess whether and how the global climate governance community can reduce the inequities and injustices of climate change across the planet.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all aspects of social life, with significant consequences for climate resilience, vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation at global, national and local levels. What can we learn from the pandemic in the pursuit of climate justice, and how has the pandemic affected the lived experiences of climate change?"

The event will take place between September 21-23 and host around 100 short talks, covering the diverse challenges posed by climate change, from its impact on fair access to food and water to the spread of diseases such as malaria, the growing vulnerability of communities to extreme weather events, and the resulting challenges on migration and population displacement.

The Forum will attract a diverse range of expertise in the emerging field of climate justice to consider the impact climate change is already having on people and their communities across the world.

You can sign up for the event here.

Exploring how India can mitigate the impact of COVID-19

GCU London's Dr Madhu Acharyya explored strategies to help India recover from COVID-19 as part of the Resilience and Reconstruction series of talks from GCNYC's Center for Social Impact and Innovation.

He discussed how policy makers can aid the country's economic and social restoration in 'How India Could Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19' on 18 February 2021.

Dr Acharya, Senior Lecturer in Risk and Finance, explained: "The pandemic has already caused significant physical, social and economic harms across the globe.

"The management of such a large-scale catastrophe requires a balancing act between protection of public health and servicing the national economy while restoring the long-term social values. We have developed an optimisation model for the decision makers that exhibits such a balance with constraints. We derived this model from the perspective of India, which is ranked as one of the top victims of COVID-19 as well as the second highest populated country in the world. The output of the model is expected to help the policy makers to develop recovery strategies for post-COVID-19 disruptions."

Dr Acharya leads the MSc Insurance and Sustainable Risk Management course at GCU London and is the winner of the 2006 SHIN research excellence award presented by the Geneva Association (Switzerland) and the International Insurance Society (USA).

Scotland after the virus

Dr Angela O'Hagan has contributed a chapter to a COVID-19 related volume of ‘Scotland After the Virus’ edited by Gerry Hassan and Simon Burrow.  In the chapter ‘Towards a Caring Economy’, Dr Angela O'Hagan draws on the work of the Commission on Gender Equal Economy of which she is a member.  The contributions to the volume range across academics, activists, creative writers, and others with perspectives on key policy and governance issues for Scotland following the impacts of the pandemic.  

Train of hope and the impact of COVID-19

GCU's Fiona Stewart-Knight and Transnet's Shamona Kandia Transnet discussed the Phelophepa ‘Train of hope’ as part of the Resilience and Reconstruction Speaker Series presented by The Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Glasgow Caledonian New York College (GCNYC)

Fiona, Assistant Vice Principal Business Partnerships and Director of the Institute for University to Business Education, joined Shamona to explore how the pandemic is impacting the care provided by the Phelophepa Healthcare Train, which travels throughout South Africa taking care to some of the country's most remote communities. Shamona is a Senior Manager at Transnet,in charge of the Phelophepa Healthcare Train, the first sustainable South African initiative to receive the prestigious United Nations Public Service Award for its excellence in public service delivery.

Building on climate and COVID research

Glasgow Caledonian University’s Centre for Climate Justice will build on its current research into the experiences of people in Sub-Saharan Africa during the coronavirus pandemic, with the ultimate aim of changing future government and NGO thinking. 

The Centre has been awarded a £182k grant by UKRI/Newton Fund for a 10-month project focusing on the experiences of local people in Malawi and Rwanda. This comes as the Centre for Climate Justice completes a four-month project with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance to explore the impact of COVID-19 by compiling case studies from Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon and Morocco, with results expected soon.

The project will invite local community members, as well as practitioners from government, development, private sector and community-based organisations in Rwanda and Malawi - two countries simultaneously affected by the pandemic and climate change - to participate in interviews, focus groups and surveys on this topic.

The findings of the research will inform the work of the Malawian and Rwandan ministries responsible for health, climate change and environment. This will be achieved through a range of products and events, including reports, journal articles, a documentary, an interactive website and case-study leaflets.

How the pandemic is impacting visionary college

Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing Principal Niru Shamsun Nahar along with Prosanto Kumar Datta, Assistant Professor, and Nahida Akter, Lecturer, led a session on the 22 October 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on their work and on college life.  A partnership between GCU and Grameen Healthcare Trust, GCCN was established in 2010 in Dhaka. The visionary college offers international-standard nursing education and clinical practice to its students, and is raising the status of the profession across the country as well as providing opportunities, education and training to women from impoverished backgrounds.

Shaping the Post-COVID World Initiative

Professor Tahseen Jafry will joined a panel of experts in human rights, ethics and global governance to debate the principles of climate justice and how they can be applied to climate-induced displacement.

She was speaking at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, which was established by the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2008 to create a world-leading centre for policy-relevant research and training on climate change and the environment. It brings together international expertise on economics, finance, geography, the environment, international development and political economy.

The online event which was held on 14 October 2020 forms part of LSE’s Shaping the Post-COVID World initiative, convening a series of debates about the direction the world could and should be taking after the crisis, collaboratively producing a roadmap for the future.

Professor Jafry said: “Climate change is widely expected to lead to widespread displacement and migration worldwide. Rising sea-levels, flooding, heatwaves and drought are threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Climate justice requires us to respect and protect the human rights of people facing climate-related displacement. What rights do climate migrants have, and whose responsibility is it to assist those who seek to escape the ecological threats that climate change produces? Does international law offer sufficient legal protection for displaced people? Or do we need to strengthen international protection regimes for climate migrants?” 

University to help shape African coronavirus recovery

The experiences of people in Sub-Saharan Africa during the coronavirus pandemic are to be recorded by Glasgow Caledonian University researchers with the aim of changing future government and NGO thinking.  GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice will undertake the four-month project with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance to explore the impact of COVID-19 by compiling case studies from Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon and Morocco.  More specifically, the study will focus on the way the pandemic may affect the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the Paris Agreement, a global pact aimed at alleviating the impact of climate change while building resilience of countries and communities.  The gathered data will then be used to inform and develop recommendations to policy makers on how best to shape post-COVID-19 reconstruction on the continent, as well as inform climate conversations ahead of COP 26.


Research at GCU

Research is instrumental in tackling society’s biggest problems. The health, social and economic challenges uncovered by COVID-19 brings into sharp focus our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

Sustainable Development Goals

These global goals reflect our ethos as the University for the Common Good and our mission to make a positive difference to the communities we serve. Read our institutional research strategy to find out more about our commitment to the SDGs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.

The icons below show which of the 17 SDGs we aim to impact through the research above.