Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: About


PIR's Dr. Eve Hepburn named University Rising Star

The Rising Star Award honours a University of Edinburgh academic who has demonstrated great potential.


Dr Eve Hepburn, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations and Depute Director of the Academy of Government, has won the University of Edinburgh’s prestigious ‘Rising Star Award’.

Dr Hepburn was nominated for the award in recognition of her contributions to both research and teaching. She has been a driving force in the conception, design and initial delivery of teaching in the Masters of Public Policy (MPP), the first degree of its kind in the UK. She has also played an important role in establishing the Academy of Government – the UK’s first professional school of public policy, which seeks to train the next generation of public leaders and generate solutions to the world’s most pressing policy problems. Finally, Dr Hepburn has led or been centrally involved in winning over £350k of funding to finance research on multi-level governance and territorial politics in Europe and North America, leading to over 30 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals and publishing houses.

More information on the Chancellor’s Awards of 2012 can be found here.

An excerpt of Dr Hepburn’s speech at the Chancellor’s Gala Dinner and Awards can be found below:


“We are all, in our lives, looking for inspiration; Inspiration to do better in our chosen careers, to improve the future for our families, to be better people. And sometimes – perhaps most oftentimes - we find it in the most unlikely places. My first source of inspiration was a homeless man I met on a train when I was 15 years old, travelling from Edinburgh to my home in South Queensferry. A man who had lost faith in his country, in society, in life itself, gave me the wake-up call that no amount of teaching could do. Here was a person let down by the system, and for me - a naïve young girl - the only option I believed I had was to try and make that system better. So I told him that I was going to try and change things. And that idealism – that ambition – to try and improve the world in which we live, has never left me in the years since this encounter.

I’m sure we all here have similar stories to tell, about people who have inspired us to do better, to be better. But this particular story connects deeply with an issue that I’ve been tackling all my life and especially during my time here at Edinburgh University. And that is that we live in an unequal society with unequal opportunities, where the most vulnerable often fall through the safety net. Every country has its ‘wicked problems’, and Scotland has its fair share:  health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and violence, homelessness, poverty ... These are the unglamorous issues that are in urgent need of new thinking. And this is where our universities – and especially the University of Edinburgh – can do much to give back to society.

Through our ideas and commitment to the public good we must strive to influence debates about how to improve the quality of life of our citizens. Through our teaching and programmes, we must seek to educate and train emerging leaders, as well as people already in power, about the complexities of public policy. And through our research we must raise the level of debates, to inform the policy community of comparative best practice. In short, we must use our privileged position in academia to advance the values of public service, and to contribute to the solution of public problems.

And that is the reason why we at the University of Edinburgh have launched the Academy of Government. The Academy is the UK’s first professional school of public policy. Our goals are to educate and inspire the next generation of public leaders, and to generate ideas about how to tackle our most pressing policy problems.

Why do we need such an institution, you might ask? Because we currently lack a neutral space for policy debate and training in Scotland; because it’s becoming increasingly urgent to think about how to best meet public needs in a changing Scotland; and most importantly, because education, ideas and research are the things that universities do best and always have.

But more than this, the Academy is both global in its outlook and aspirations, and avowedly Scottish in its principles and philosophy. So while our students and staff come from all over the world, the Academy draws on the principles of the Scottish Enlightenment – freedom of thought; engagement with other people’s opinions; a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom; and the desire to increase our understanding of the world.

But the Academy also pays homage to the Scottish ideals of egalitarianism and meritocracy. We wish to create opportunities for everyone who is motivated by a desire to serve the public – regardless of their class, their colour, or their financial means – to engage with the Academy. And that’s why we’re working closely with the Development Office to create scholarships for students from the most deprived backgrounds – whether they hail from Sri Lanka or Shettlestown – to benefit from the programmes and activities we offer. And in turn we learn from them. 

This Scottish belief in meritocracy – that anyone, regardless of background, should have the same educational opportunities – is something that’s close to my heart. Coming from a working-class background, my brother and I were educated at a state comprehensive school and were the first in our family to go to university. We are both very much products of the Scottish education system: a system forged by two sources – the Scottish Reformation and the Enlightenment – which together combined to produce the most literate nation in Europe. It is these inclusive, meritocratic values that drive the Academy of Government.


So, I’d like to thank all of the people out there who inspire us to be better people – from the homeless man I met on that train many years ago to the philosophers of the Enlightenment who believed in the ability of humanity to effect changes in society for the better. I hope that we – and the Academy – live up to those expectations.


white image