Legal cosmopolitanism is a core value underlying the Goldsmiths Law curriculum, and in keeping with this approach to academic learning, we organised for 19 Goldsmiths students, including 5 students from our Journalism, Media, Politics, Sociology and Anthropology departments, as well as 8 students from Greek Universities we’re collaborating with, to attend our annual Summer School in Athens this June, on Human Rights, Law, and Policy: Britain, Greece and the EU. All 19 Goldsmiths students were supported by generous student scholarships by the Department of Law; widening access and participation for all is a key priority for our Department.
The programme, spread across a week, was a mix of experiential learning opportunities, taught academic sessions, cultural visits and student-centred socials. Students had the chance to learn contextually from diplomats, UN experts, Law academics, law enforcement officials, sociologists, economists, environmental law experts and other subject specialists. The summer school faculty brought together experts from Greek Universities and organisations as well as Goldsmiths Law academics.
Besides the academic element, students came together and created unique memories in more relaxed settings; the trip to the Athenian riviera and beach were important highlights, and so were dinners at local tavernas, fish restaurants, and cooling down from the Athenian heat with iced cappuccino coffee! There was sport and other games on the beach, and bowling, past midnight, on the final evening out!
Engaged Learning in Context
Goldsmiths students had the opportunity to attend academic sessions and seminars at leading Athenian universities, including the prestigious Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, the Harokopio University, Athens University of Economics and Business, and the Athens Conservatoire. Experts on important areas of Greek public law and human rights discussed a range of important issues, such as the refugee crisis, developments in constitutional, human rights and EU law, law and technology, and economic policy. Instructors included a retired female Greek police general, Zacharoula Tsirigoti, who oversaw the refugee crisis in the Greek-Turkish border in 2015, as well as leading UK and Greek academics.
The keynote address was delivered by Ms. Jessica Simor KC, a Visiting Professor in our Law Department, and leading human rights barrister at Matrix Chambers, who has recently led on the major KlimaSeniorinnen v Switzerland case at the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg. Jessica spoke about the ground-breaking development of using human rights law to address climate change, and delivered a practical workshop to participants, about how to prepare a major case at the European Court of Human Rights.
Students’ understanding of refugee law and policy gained further perspective during a visit to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Students engaged in theoretical discussion and practical exercises.
Another highlight of the trip was a discussion on the political role played by Greek Tragedies at the Theatre of Dionysus – the location at which they would have first been performed. Goldsmiths’ Dr Natalie Katsou, an expert on ancient Greek tragedies, introduced students to the theatre’s architecture and use in ancient times, before exploring the idea of ‘refuge’ in ancient Greek theatre in another workshop.
The programme, which began with a visit to the Greek Ambassador in London, HE Yannis Tsaousis, came to an official close at the British Council in Athens, where the British Ambassador to Greece, HE Matthew Lodge, awarded students their summer school certificates and spoke to them about the importance of British-Greek ties and UK’s commitment to Human Rights. He highlighted the significance of Goldsmiths Law’s summer school as an outstanding illustration of invaluable bilateral internationalisation efforts in the post Brexit era, and a gateway to the development of more comprehensive student exchange schemes in the future, in which area Goldsmiths Law could be seen as a pioneer.
To prove this point, the Head of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and the Vice Rector of the Athens University of Economics and Business, Prof Vasilios Papadakis, announced to the Ambassador the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, in the context of the Athens summer school. The MoU marks the beginning of ambitious work to set up student exchange programmes which will allow Goldsmiths students to study in Greece a range of modules on Law, Economics, Business and Management, as part of their three year LLB, and Greek students from the Athens University of Economics and Business to study for the LLM and other postgraduate qualifications at Goldsmiths.
Exploring Greek Landmarks from a Legal Lens
Goldsmiths Law is all about experiential learning, and this time, our adventures moved from legal London to Legal Athens (and legal historical Athens!). Particularly moving was a group reading of Pericles’ funeral oration at Pnyka, the birthplace of democratic assemblies. Trips to the Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum were marked by insightful observations on classical Greece as well as on legal and policy issues surrounding the return of the Elgin Marbles. Students also received a guided tour of the Hellenic Parliament, and in one of its chambers, similarities and differences between the Greek parliament and the Westminster model were explored.
The trip was about lessons and learning as much as it was about friendship and fun. Students from different cohorts and departments had a chance to bond, laugh, and think together in more informal environments with their instructors. Student satisfaction with the experience is best summed up by the words of Sociology and Politics student, Samara, who writes,
“This Summer School was an experience beyond words. As a Sociology & Politics student the invitation was kindly extended to allow me more opportunities in a field of interest, which I am very grateful for. There were many academic highlights, including learning about the migration crisis in Greece and how this corresponds with policy in the UK, as well as the Greek economic crisis and how this has effected the country to this day (at the Athens University of Economics and Business). Being able to develop my political stance on migration and economic issues from a law perspective was invaluable. All lectures and group activities were gracefully hosted by staff at the partnering universities or visiting professors, providing us all with thought provoking sessions and extra resources to pursue the field further. Furthermore, the trip came with the benefit of the enriching culture and landmarks that makes Athens the city that it is. The historic architecture and perfect preservation of what was once ancient Greece only added to the amazing experience, it’s completely incomparable to seeing the same artefacts in the British History Museum.”
Law student, Zara Sadiq, added:
Overall, my summer school experience in Athens was truly amazing. The combination of historical landmarks, delectable food, and warm hospitality made it a trip to remember. I highly recommend going on the summer school for anyone seeking a blend of cultural immersion and educational opportunities, and special thanks to the Law Department for such an incredible opportunity”.
Big thanks to Zara and Samara from our part. This means a lot!
Head of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, who devised and led on the delivery of the summer school for the second year in a row, with the crucial support of the Study in Greece organisation, finally noted:
The list of educational, cultural and social activities that we have undertaken, within just a week in Athens, in itself speaks volumes about the added academic, professional and emotional benefits that our students will have acquired there. It still fails to tell the full story of the unique memories that we have all brought back with us to London. Our Law programme goes much further than transmit technical knowledge, legal or otherwise, to students. It immerses them in cultural and professional experiences, and formal institutional settings, and seeks to provide constant inspiration to them, through the people and settings and experiences it introduces them, to aim high and achieve their dreams, in life.
We look forward to many of our prospective students coming with us to Athens next year!