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Universities - empowering teachers, transforming lives

"Why are you doing this?" a law professor asked me. It was the first day of a four-day training of teachers on ethics in higher education organised by our team at her university in Nigeria. I asked her how many students she was teaching this year. "Two hundred in total", she replied, "at undergraduate and post-graduate level". Then I asked how many she had taught last year, and the year before, in fact how many had she taught during her teaching career. In her ten-year career she had taught over 2,000 students, not to mention all those that she will go on to teach in the future and those that some of her students are or will perhaps teach in turn. 
"We have come because your university asked us to, because what you teach and how you teach it and how you behave affects so many students, so many lives", I replied. 
On the second day of the training the same law professor came and looked for me during a break, leaned forward with a smile and said, "I am convinced".
Nearly everyone has at least one teacher who they will never forget because of what they taught them, for the example that they gave them. Our partner universities, members of the Consortium on Ethics in Higher Education, recognise the importance of teachers, especially if they want to live up to the promises that they make to their students. 
Without exception the aim of our partner universities is to provide students with a high standard of education, one that is rounded, that builds not only the competence and skills of their students in their chosen subject/s but also helps them to grow as individuals, to develop their moral strength of character. Such an education informs and transforms young people at a critical time in their lives, enabling them to get jobs or create their own and to become responsible leaders in their families, work lives and in society. Such an education also has the happy result of raising the standard and quality of the universities, a virtuous circle is created.
By focusing on teachers, ensuring that they are given what they need to be the best they can be in what is often a highly competitive environment with a lot at stake for all concerned, higher education institutions go a long way to achieving the aim of providing a quality education for their students. With ethics at the centre personal gain becomes subservient to the common good across the board. 
The ethics training workshops in universities also include university administrators, alongside teachers and university leaders and advice on working with students to help improve behaviours. Together they identify and look for ways to address in practical ways the ethical challenges in their universities, the practices that do harm, whether they be physical, moral or otherwise. 
As one participant noted in their workshop evaluation, "The University to me is a system. It is the framework built in the system that supports and protects members of the university community. As a result of such systematic protections, people should be courageous enough to take ethical and other decisions that project a university in good light and support good values."
Lucy Howe López, Deputy Executive Director, Globethics.netLucy Howe López Deputy Executive Director