Minouche Shafik

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Minouche Shafik in 2009

Nemat Talaat Shafik, Baroness Shafik, (Arabic: نعمت طلعت شفيق) (born 13 August 1962) commonly known as Minouche Shafik (Arabic: مينوش شفيق), is a British-American academic and economist. She has been serving as the 20th president of Columbia University since July 2023. She previously served as president and vice chancellor of the London School of Economics from 2017 to 2023.

From 2014 to 2017, Shafik served as deputy governor of the Bank of England and also previously as permanent secretary of the United Kingdom Department for International Development from 2008 to 2011. She has also served as a vice president at the World Bank and as deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.


  • I’ve worked in a lot of different organizations, and that helps because you often have seen a similar problem somewhere else. Now, organizations all have their different cultures and histories, but it helps to have seen a similar problem. It makes you realize, “I can figure this one out, maybe, or there is a way to solve this puzzle.” The other thing is I’ve worked in a couple of organizations that manage crises, like the International Monetary Fund, or when I was with the Department for International Development, we managed a lot of humanitarian crises around the world. So that teaches you to be calm under stress, and I suspect that skill might be useful in the years ahead.
  • Obviously, it’s a great thing that women are increasingly in leadership roles in top universities. I guess I just sort of feel like it’s about time. It’s my honest opinion. I mean, I don’t wake up every morning thinking, “Oh, I’m the first woman president of Columbia.” You just kind of get on with the job. So I don’t really think about it very much every day. But I think it’s great.
  • Technology because it has changed jobs and lots of people haven’t benefited. They have been left behind. They don’t have the skills and they are not in the right place, with the result that their prospects are poor. And the way our whole social contract was predicated on women looking after the young and the old for free – now there are more women going to university than men, globally, not just in the UK, and they are employed, and the cost of them not working is really high, so you want them to work. Yet we haven’t found a way to adjust – a way to look after the young and old without women providing free labour.
  • I never had a long term plan. I think a career is not like climbing a ladder – it’s more like climbing a tree. Focusing on climbing the next step on the ladder is a mistake. Sometimes when you are climbing a tree, it’s not linear - you might move sideways, which then helps you get up to the next level.
  • It is not okay to cast civility aside because the moment is too heated. We must cultivate a university culture that pushes back on the forces that seek to divide us. A culture that encourages empathy, not personal attacks on individuals or identities. Learning to speak, and listen with respect, that is a cherished Columbia value.
  • We are living in a time of great divisions in our societies – between rich and poor, amongst different races and religions, and across fundamental values and principles. We see the rise of truculent nationalism and troubling fault lines in democracies across the world at a time when our most pressing challenges—such as climate change—require more international agreement. We are on the cusp of many technological revolutions in fields like artificial intelligence, neuroscience, quantum and nano technologies. At the same time, we are aging rapidly and coping with mental health challenges and worsening wellbeing.
  • So let us forge a new social contract with society and with each other that will make us an exemplar of a great university in the 21st century. We will construct this on a foundation built by the wisdom of our past and forge new frontiers of scholarship and service. The legacy of the Columbians who came before will live on through us, as our legacy will live on through future generations, nurtured by the commitments we reaffirm here today.

Universities must engage in serious soul searching on protests (9 May 2024)


Source: [1]

  • When I was inaugurated as Columbia’s 20th president on October 4, 2023, I called for strengthening the bond between universities and society through a recommitment to academia’s contribution to the common good. The horrors of the Hamas attack three days later, the ensuing war with Israel and the tragic loss of civilian lives in Gaza have tested that bond in unimaginable ways. I have seen the campus engulfed in tensions and divisions deepened by powerful external forces.
  • The wave of protests, encampments, and building takeovers has since spread across the US and around the world. Whatever one thinks of the response of university leaders — denouncing hurtful rhetoric, enforcing rules and discipline, and summoning police to restore order — these are actions, not solutions. All of us who believe in higher education must now engage in serious soul searching about why this is happening. Only then can universities recover and begin to realise their potential to heal and unify.
  • From my perspective, there are two issues at stake. First, we must do a better job of defining the boundaries between the free speech rights of one part of our community and the rights of others to be educated in a place free of discrimination and harassment.
  • Free speech is the bedrock of academic inquiry and excellence. The threats it faces are real — many places ban books, curricula are sometimes determined by politicians rather than educational experts and scholars are at serious risk in many countries.
  • For me, the lesson is clear. If colleges and universities cannot better define the boundaries between free speech and discrimination, government will move to fill that gap, and in ways that do not necessarily protect academic freedom. Just as our predecessors fought for desegregation and the admission of women, we need to create an educational environment where we fight all forms of prejudice, including against Arabs, Jews and Muslims.
  • Rather than tearing ourselves apart, universities must rebuild the bonds within ourselves and between society and the academy based on our shared values and on what we do best: education, research, service and public engagement.

A Message from President Minouche Shafik (8 May 2024)


Source: A Message from President Minouche Shafik

  • Over the last few months, we have been patient in tolerating unauthorized demonstrations, including the encampment. Our academic leaders spent eight days engaging over long hours in serious dialogue in good faith with protest representatives. I thank them for their tireless effort. The University offered to consider new proposals on divestment and shareholder activism, to review access to our dual degree programs and global centers, to reaffirm our commitment to free speech, and to launch educational and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank. Some other universities have achieved agreement on similar proposals. Our efforts to find a solution went into Tuesday evening, but regrettably, we were unable to come to resolution.
  • Columbia has a long and proud tradition of protest and activism on many important issues such as the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Today’s protesters are also fighting for an important cause, for the rights of Palestinians and against the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. They have many supporters in our community and have a right to express their views and engage in peaceful protest.
  • It is going to take time to heal, but I know we can do that together. I hope that we can use the weeks ahead to restore calm, allow students to complete their academic work, and honor their achievements at Commencement.
  • We also must continue with urgency our ongoing dialogue on the important issues that have been raised in recent months, especially the balance between free speech and discrimination and the role of a university in contributing to better outcomes in the Middle East. Both are topics where I hope Columbia can lead the way in new thinking that will make us the epicenter, not just of protests, but of solutions to the world’s problems.

Statement from Columbia University President Minouche Shafik (29 April 2024)


Source: Statement from Columbia University President Minouche Shafik

  • Our values—as well as our duties under civil rights laws—compel us to condemn hate and to protect every member of our community from harassment and discrimination. Antisemitic language and actions are unacceptable and calls for violence are simply abhorrent.
  • I know that many of our Jewish students, and other students as well, have found the atmosphere intolerable in recent weeks. Many have left campus, and that is a tragedy. To those students and their families, I want to say to you clearly: You are a valued part of the Columbia community. This is your campus too. We are committed to making Columbia safe for everyone, and to ensuring that you feel welcome and valued.
  • Additionally, the University offered to convene a faculty committee to address academic freedom and to begin a discussion on access and financial barriers to academic programs and global centers. The University also offered to make investments in health and education in Gaza, including supporting early childhood development and support for displaced scholars. There are important ideas that emerged from this dialogue, and we plan to explore pursuing them in the future.
  • But we must take into account the rights of all members of our community. The encampment has created an unwelcoming environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty.

2023 Convocation Address (27 August 2023)


Source: [2]

  • Like you, I am new to this campus, having started as Columbia’s 20th president in July. And I say as someone who has experienced change once or twice in my life, beginnings are exciting, and hard, and everything in between. They introduce us to new people and ideas, challenge us to adapt to new situations, and open our eyes to new ways of thinking about the world and our place within it.
  • Universities and institutions of higher education have existed for millennia, stretching back to the schools of the ancients in places like China, Egypt, Greece, and India. There is something special, even magical, about the tradition of students and scholars coming together to create these unique environments of learning.
  • Today, the critical questions we ask include, “What are you going to do with the training you’ve acquired?” and “How are you going to use the research you’ve conducted for the betterment of society?” Look behind me at the inscription on Low Library which says we want to be an institution that is “cherished by generation after generation for the advancement of the public good.

Speech at COP27 opening ceremony (7 November 2022)


Source: LSE Director Minouche Shafik gives speech at COP27 opening ceremony

  • I am honoured to speak today in the country of my birth, a country that has been a cradle of human civilization for millennia, on a topic that will determine the future of human civilization and whether it lasts for more millennia. I am an economist who has worked on development and environment issues for several decades and I wanted to speak to you about the economy of the future.
  • But before doing that, let me start with a story from the past. Over 3000 years ago a different kind of climate change caused by volcanic eruptions and changing weather patterns resulted in persistent droughts that caused famines and political unrest in ancient Egypt. The pharaohs of the Ptolemaic dynasty such as Cleopatra went to great lengths to adapt – transferring grain from productive regions to drought plagued areas, opening up grain stores, crossbreeding cattle to develop more heat resistant animals, and providing tax relief. These foresighted efforts managed to prolong the Egyptian empire for a half century longer but ultimately one of the greatest empires the world has ever known collapsed because of the effects of climate change. The difference between then and now is that we are the cause of today’s climate change, and we have the means to stop it by changing our economy.
  • What could the economy of the future look like? We have a choice. It could be one based on familiar technologies, markets and institutions. We could continue with polluted air and water where our children suffer from respiratory diseases; where our economies are struck by frequent shocks caused by unpredictable weather events which cause catastrophic losses; where people have to move across borders as their livelihoods are destroyed by rising sea levels or persistent droughts and rising temperatures; and one where the natural world continues to diminish.
  • I can also paint a different picture of the economy of the future. One in which we make the needed investments and created cities in which we can move, breathe, and thrive. One in which the food we eat regenerates the earth rather than depletes it. Where our economies continue to grow and especially in poor countries, living standards continue to rise, where this growth is greener, more stable and where human well-being is enhanced through co-existence with nature.
  • We know we are in difficult economic times with war, recession, and inflation. Where will the money for this investment come from? In tough times, we need to use our limited resources most efficiently. Given the history of climate change, we need an appropriate balance between responsibility and resources.
  • Africa is responsible for only 1% of emissions but will be the hardest hit by climate change. That cannot be right. At the same time, many African countries are rich in sunshine, wind, rivers and forests. With support, they could leapfrog the dirty energy systems of the past and, if we create a better carbon market, provide a huge source of income for countries rich in carbon sinks.
  • So, the economy of the future is our choice. We face a classic intertemporal investment problem – incur some investment costs now with high returns later or opt for inaction or not enough action but incur very high costs and risks later. Even if you do not take into account future generations (which makes these arguments much, much stronger), it seems to me the choice is clear. Climate change and biodiversity loss are here, and we are already suffering the consequences. Unlike the Pharaohs, we can overcome this climate change by choosing a different kind of economy for the future.

Think Global, Act local (24 October 2016)


Source: speech by Minouche Shafik

  • The benefits of open capital markets are clear. They facilitate the flow of finance to where it would be most productive and help ensure global resources are allocated most efficiently. They allow savers and investors to diversify portfolios beyond national borders, and they provide a greater range of funding sources to fast growing economies and businesses
  • The most obvious way to take international considerations into account is by treating risks emanating from abroad as an important input when setting domestic macroprudential policy.
  • Reciprocity also helps address the old problem of asymmetric adjustment of global imbalances. Suppose a deficit country wishes to contain the supply of credit and build resilience in its financial system by raising the buffer. If a surplus country whose banks are lending to the deficit country reciprocates, its banks should be incentivised to lend less to the deficit economy, and more to their domestic economy. That should increase domestic demand in the surplus country, and hence demand for deficit country exports, reducing the overall level of imbalances.
  • The growth of market-based finance and asset management is creating new sources of funding, adding welcome diversity to the financial system, particularly for emerging markets. And in some ways these flows are less risky – for example the average maturity of international securities issued by emerging markets is 10 years, reducing rollover risk and exposure to a sudden flight of capital.
  • There are many ways in which co-operation on macro-prudential policies could be deepened further. Options which could warrant further investigation range from formalising the exchange of information, to frameworks for reciprocity for tools beyond the countercyclical capital buffer, to common stress test scenarios and risk assessment that are used across the world.

Quotes about Minouche Shafik

  • Steering Columbia University through the choppy waters of anti-Israel student protests was never going to be easy for Minouche Shafik, a member of the UK House of Lords who took over as president of the university in New York after a period of relative calm running the London School of Economics.[..] Shafik’s decision to call in the police to break up a student protest camp on the university lawn appalled many on both sides of the dispute. Protesters and their supporters among the academic community complained about police brutality and the targeting of pro-Palestinian campaigners, while Republican defenders of Israel accused Shafik of failing to act quickly enough.
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