Professor Sital Dhillon OBE

Tell us about your contribution that has been recognised through the professorship.Sital Dhillon

My application for a Chair was based on an outstanding contribution in External and Professional Engagement (E&PE) at Sheffield Hallam and in my previous career as a British Diplomat with The British Council working overseas and within the UK.

I recorded a number of achievements I was particularly proud of, including:

  • Working for the late President Nelson Mandela in creating a diplomacy training programme for the African National Congress at the end of apartheid in South Africa.
  • Successfully influencing the Government of Brazil to ratify the UN Convention on Torture.
  • Establishing the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice (HKC) at Sheffield Hallam under the patronage of Baroness Kennedy and influencing our Vice Chancellor and Board of Governors in her subsequent appointment as the University’s Chancellor.
  • Being recognised by HM Queen Elizabeth II for my work in human rights and thwarting the impact of a terrorist bomb in Afghanistan; and being awarded the Civilian Bravery Medal by Her Majesty.
  • Expanding our provision within HKC to successfully win multi million pound training contracts with South Yorkshire Police and the Ministry of Justice (Probation).
  • Successfully diversifying our staff base to 19% of the overhaul staff cohort; and setting in train a major overhaul of all of our provision to align it with external equality and diversity benchmark standards.

What does it mean personally to you to be a Professor at Sheffield Hallam?

The most important aspect is that it enables me to further mentor our students and our colleagues. It also provides useful credibility when seeking to establish relationships for influence for the University,

Tell us a bit about your career story so far.

I am a Barrister and former British Diplomat, with extensive experience of working for The British Council and other international organisations, including the UN and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

I am currently the Director of HKC where I have led a major change of our provision over the last 10 years focusing on developing a “rights based” agenda; a diversified and de-colonised curricula- and the delivery of applied pro-bono support to vulnerable groups within society through the implementation of applied student-led learning. Additionally, I have sought to establish HKC as a global centre for expertise in human rights and social justice.

For many years I worked with Government and non-governmental agencies all over the world; and the further and higher education sectors in a variety of different cultural settings. I have sought to bring that experience into my role at Hallam in seeking to build cross cultural competencies into our pedagogy and organisational culture.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

Listen more; always say “yes” to new opportunities; and never leave a Chelsea game before the final whistle.

What’s next? Tell us about how you want to further develop your contribution.

  • To mentor colleagues and students alike
  • To further diversify our staff base and our pedagogy
  • To reach out to minoritised communities in order to enhance the representation of minoritised groups within HKC programmes
  • To develop interdisciplinary provision with colleagues in the departments of Natural and Built Environment (NBE), Humanities and Computing
  • To develop a number of high profile policy seminars, informed by our research in forced labour and forced migration in collaboration with our partners in the global south and in north and Latin America
  • To re-validate our Criminology UG degree through a process of decolonising the curricula and introducing a range of applied modules in areas such as green criminology and combating gender violence.