Provost’s Long View: London’s Global University, Beyond the Second Centenary

12 December 2013

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a wide range of staff and discussing issues and plans for the institution that are close to your hearts. I’d now like to take the opportunity to share with you my overview of how these discrete ambitions fit together to create a university that is greater than the sum of its parts, as expressed in my inaugural lecture to friends and partners on 21 November.

It is of course a very great honour to be the tenth Provost of UCL and the fourth I believe to bear the title of President & Provost. I agree completely with my predecessor Malcolm Grant that this is the best senior position in UK higher education and one of the best in the world.

I’m going to start with a quotation, and there’s a little bit of work for you to do as I go through this. The quotation goes as follows: “The age we live in is a busy age in which knowledge is rapidly advancing towards perfection. In the natural world in particular, everything teams with discovery and improvement.”

So I simply want you to work out for yourselves which year that came from. I’m going to give you some help because from the next sentence you’ll gather a little more information from the English that is being used in this quotation. So if it continues: “the most distant and recondite regions of this world traversed and explored, the all vivifying and subtle element of the air recently analysed and made known to us. Our striking evidences were all others wanting of this pleasing truth”. 

Those wonderful words were, in fact, said in 1776 and, you guessed it, by none other than Jeremy Bentham in a Fragment on Government also known as a ‘Comment on Commentaries’, and you will be aware that many of Bentham’s writings were his commentaries on various policies and other documents of the day.

Bentham was of course a highly influential figure in the history of UCL and many think of him as a founding father, but the truth is that although he was of course a major influence, he wasn’t directly or closely involved, and by the time that UCL was opened in 1826, Bentham was in his 80s and allegedly quite withdrawn [Negley Harte and John North, The World of UCL: 1826–2004].

So, the real credit goes to a combination of Thomas Campbell, a Scottish poet, and another Scot, Henry Brougham – an intellectual of the times and a man who believed in the Benthamite utilitarian principle of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. It’s generally agreed that it was Brougham who delivered on Campbell’s vision to deliver a great London university.

At that time, the only existing universities in England were Oxford and Cambridge, and I really like the next bit, because Bentham called Oxford and Cambridge the “two great public nuisances – storehouses and nurseries of political corruption”. Harsh, perhaps, but it is true that, at that time, they were only open to members of the Church of England; thus UCL was born to be different in the context of Bentham’s utilitarianism and to be open to all irrespective of creed, religion or gender. That radicalism and rebelliousness still lives on in the culture of UCL, and I believe it’s one of the reasons why UCL has gone from strength to strength and been quite so successful.

British higher education on the global scene

I am now going to whisk you forward to the modern day – 2013 – and I want to speak to you for a few minutes now about the position of British higher education on the global scene, and to think of the incredible international prominence of UK higher education in the world.

Teaching in a global context

We certainly enjoy a very high global profile. By most measures, UK higher education is ranked as second in the world, second only to the USA, and despite the excellence of many European competitors and the rise of the East, we still hold second place, so far, by quite a significant margin.

The future growth in the international market is literally huge – according to a UNESCO report in 2011, a global forum again, at that stage there were 165 million students enrolled in higher education institutions around the world. UNESCO estimated that that would rise to 263 million by 2025. To put that in perspective, to accommodate those additional 98 million students would require the building and the opening and the staffing, of course, of four and a half universities the size of UCL per week for the next 15 years. That is a remarkable thought and a remarkable opportunity.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that unless something really remarkable happens, not that many of those students are going to be receiving a campus-based experience, and I think that that one fact alone drives me towards thinking very firmly about what we might do online, and how we might do it, and how we might make it fit together with our campus-based, research intensive model.

So my conclusion about the position of UK higher education is that we really are highly successful, highly productive and incredibly efficient. And you might ask the question, why are we in that position? How has that happened? There are academic musings about this, and I in particular have read some of the work of Phillipe Aghion from Harvard Business School, who’s looked at two factors and really highlights this as the key reason why the UK does so well.

Autonomy of UK higher education

First of all autonomy; so the autonomy of your higher educational institution is absolutely critical. The greater the autonomy, the greater the performance of the system is the general rule of thumb. Even in the United States, by the way, where the autonomy of the university varies from state to state, you can show a relationship between the performance of the institution and the measured degree of autonomy.

In this country, of course, we have significant autonomy – we’re regulated but to be quite honest we do have great freedom and we certainly have great academic freedom.

The other factor is competition, so it’s the combination of the autonomy of your institution and the competitive nature of the funding. I would like to suggest that the funding system in the UK is now highly competitive, particularly for the research funding, of course, but also for the quality of research funding in the research evaluation framework, and we are also competing, of course, for the very best students and for worldwide talent to come and join our staff.

Let’s move to the position of UCL in that global higher educational framework. Like my predecessor Sir Malcolm Grant, I am not a fan of league tables, but I think I could comfortably and reasonably suggest that we are within the top 20 universities in the world and amongst the top four in the UK, alongside Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge.

It would of course be remiss of me not to mention fourth place in the QS world league table behind MIT, Harvard and Cambridge, and, yes, you have worked out that that, therefore, means ahead of Imperial and Oxford.

Research performance

UCL has certainly accelerated dramatically in its research performance over the past decade, and I think great credit goes not only to my predecessor Sir Malcolm Grant, but also to David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) and, of course, the rest of the research office team, the Deans and all the academic staff that have generated this level of success – and I can tell you that the data are really quite staggering.

First, research income has gone from £200 million in 06/07 to £300 million in 11/12, and rose by 11.3% to £334 million last year alone. That puts us in third place behind Oxford and Imperial and actually ahead of Cambridge.

In new awards, which as you know are bumpy and fluctuate, this year we know that we’ve accepted £400 million of new awards per annum so we know that our research turnover will continue to grow for at least two more years – for which, of course, I will take most of the credit!

But also, a very pleasing article in the Times Higher Education last week (thank you to them!). They looked at all of the research councils, added up the sums and showed that in the past year, UCL was actually top with £135 million of new awards, ahead of Cambridge with £104 million, Imperial with £103 million and Oxford with £85 million, which is a truly great achievement.

We are just about to press the button on our submission of the Research Evaluation Framework 2014, and I can see one or two of the Deans smiling, because one of them told me that work for the submission started six months after the last set of results (RAE 2008), so, essentially people, have been working on this for five and a half years. 

I hate to think how much money this has cost the country in the process, but it is part of driving that competitive nature, so on one level I’m worried about it and on the other level I am a fan of the RAE and now the REF. Certainly in this university, there’s been at least three years of really careful preparation of the documents.

So, UCL, I can tell you we will submit a total of 2,680 academic and research staff – that’s individuals who added up come 2350 FTEs – that’s 550 more than RAE 2008 – and we will be putting together a 93.4% submission; and for all of you who are on panels, we definitely think our GPA is well above three out of a maximum four for those of you who are not cognisant with this process.

When you look at the other statistics it’s amazing; the submission consists of 8,600 research submissions and some 270 impact case studies. Time will tell, but this looks to be a fantastically strong submission, and I hope that it will be a key milestone in the history of UCL and our position in the UK higher education.

We definitely have Oxford and Cambridge spooked, by the way. I can’t reveal my sources but I can tell you that Cambridge have been poring over our research income trying to find out why we’ve been so successful, and I am also aware that the key instruction to the team putting together the submission in Oxford is “make sure you beat UCL”. It’s a true story but I can’t possibly reveal my sources until I’ve had a couple of glasses of champagne later!

Collaborative activity and partnership with industry

Much of our research includes significant collaborative activity and partnership with industry and business – and much credit to Vice-Provost (Enterprise) Steve Caddick and his team for putting this all together. 

The recent Witty review has highlighted the fact that world-leading universities, not surprisingly, have extensive partnerships with business and he identified UCL amongst the top five in the UK in this regard. We rank fourth for industry funding in science, technology, engineering and maths research and we rank third overall for industry contract research income.

A recent article in Nature Biotech ranked UCL number one in Europe and number three in the world for biomedical partnerships with industry, and this was for our work in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, amyloidosis, foetal intra-uterine growth restriction, Safe Stat drug delivery technology, Huntington’s disease and a host of other neurological diseases. The list of companies is long but I noted that among them is Eli Lilly, Ark Therapeutics, GSK and the Japanese company Eisai.

Our industrial partnership working is strong beyond medicine too. We have very strong partnership working with Arup in the built environment, with BHP Billiton in the Institute of Sustainable Resources, with DC Thompson and Cisco in an entity called IDEALondon, which is an innovation centre in Shoreditch – you might remember it being announced by the Prime Minister. We also work with Intel, jointly with Imperial in the Institute for Sustainable Connectivities, and we work with Goldman Sachs in their 10,000 Small Businesses programme.

Against that backdrop the UCL contract portfolio has risen in value by 50% in three years and that includes 330 PhD studentships funded by industry.

Teaching and quality of education

Teaching and the quality of education are much more difficult to measure, and as the academic staff in the room know, I’m not particularly happy with the results in the National Student Survey – neither is our Council – and it is a significant worry and something that needs our attention. I’ll come back to that later.

We most definitely have scope to improve our student experience, but like most universities it is a bit of a curate’s egg. We achieve outstanding scores between 90–100% and ranking in the top quartile in the sector in Archaeology, oral and aural science, English, Laws, Maths and Statistics and Science and Technology Studies – so if we can achieve it there, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do better around the rest of the university, and that will be a major focus, I’m sure, of my tenure as Provost.

Medical teaching

Despite that, however, we are immensely popular. We have more than eight applications per place. This year alone we’ve seen another seven per cent rise in undergraduate applications, all of very high quality. We’ve seen a 15% rise in postgraduate taught and a 20% rise in applications to be a postgraduate research student. We’ve also grown very significantly in recent years and I think this is an important issue.

So in 2006/07 we had 19,400 students and last year (2012/13) we were up to 26,700 students – that’s a 39% growth in just six years. If you look at the profile of the entire student body, we were running at about 78% home/EU and 22% overseas students (that’s the full fee international paying student category). That ratio has changed now to 70% home/EU and 30% overseas.

If you break it down a little, undergraduate grew from 12,000 to 14,800 – the profile there was 79% home/EU, 21% overseas, changing to 71% home/EU and 29% overseas. Postgraduate taught has grown the most; it’s grown by 63% from just more than 4,500 to 7,500. Postgraduate research has grown by 55% over that six-year period and, interestingly (and I was quite surprised by this statistic, I thought that international would feature much more highly) that student body was 74% home/EU and 26% overseas, changing to 69% and 31%, respectively.

So the last six years has clearly been a time of very rapid growth in all categories of students, but I think it’s important to point out that we have more home/EU students than ever before. But now some 30% of all students are from overseas. If we look at our academic staff, about 40% of our academic staff are from overseas, so by any stretch of the imagination or by any definition, we are a truly global university.

This is a tremendous platform to inherit, a highly successful high profile university, a global player accelerating rapidly, but perhaps not yet that perfectly formed.

A vision for the next 30 years

That momentum allows us, I believe, to have a vision for UCL that extends into the next 20 or 30 years. We don’t need to worry that much in the next five to ten, but we do need to make sure we make the right decisions now, which will really shape this institution and its success for decades or centuries to come, and hence my chosen title tonight: ‘UCL, London’s Global University, Beyond the Second Centenary’.

In doing so, we will want to be distinctive, we will want to have impact on the world – not only though our research but also through the skills of our graduates – and we will certainly want to be true to our values, our history and our Benthamite tradition. I will not be able to get away with anything other than some rebelliousness and radicalism, and actually I welcome that.

Part of my thinking about the future also extends to our relationship with London as a city over a similar time frame. I am slightly prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, but I do believe that London has the opportunity to be the premier destination for higher education in the world. And, because of the other investments that have already been made – for example the Crick Institute – because of the partnership working that’s already in place – UCL Partners would be a wonderful example of that – I think that we could also be the best city in the world for medicine: for clinical medicine, for health, biomedical research and biomedical innovation all set in the context of that tremendous performance in higher education. And, clearly, as that happens, I would like UCL to be a key player in such developments.

Grand Challenges

If we think now a little more globally about the issues and problems a university like this might be facing over the next 20–30 years, I can easily come up with a list of current, global grand challenges, some of which this university is already addressing.

My list would include things like climate change and the human response to it – perhaps lack of human response, including the need for carbon reduction; food security; water security – you could link those two together but they can also be separated – sustainable energy/the ongoing depletion of fossil fuels; intercultural understanding; sustainable economic prosperity; the distribution of wealth; global health and the social and medical consequences of ageing, dementia and obesity.

Our current UCL Grand Challenges are in global health, human wellbeing, sustainable cities and intercultural understanding, so you can see how we already map on to the list above.

You can see all of those as a threat for an institution like this; what will the impact of those things be on our ability to recruit students, for example, on our ability to conduct research – or you can also see them as an opportunity, and an opportunity to make a real difference.

Within higher education, we also have many of our own issues to deal with: the globalisation of higher education, the millions and billions of pounds that is being invested in other higher education institutions around the rest of the world, the rise of the East, the changes in technology, issues such as online education, those famous MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses), and if anyone in the room thinks that the funding of higher education in this country is currently settled, I will be happy to talk to you later because I think obviously there are a lot of issues still to be resolved.

How does UCL face that future in this highly competitive world? Well, I would turn to something that I would call academic excellence – but I’ve been taught by David Price and others that I should add the word ‘leadership’ – so academic excellence and academic leadership through our research, through our graduates. We need to be able to contribute as a university to helping to solve some of those big problems.

Just to give you a flavour of the rebellious nature of this institution, when we discussed this recently, I took the Head of Departments meeting and renamed it ‘The Leadership Forum’ – people from Southampton and Leeds will recognise that name. I was told that academic excellence was overplayed, out of fashion and just not rebellious enough for UCL, and I got various different answers as to what we could replace it with.

The distinctiveness of UCL

If we could be academically excellent, but distinctive, then that does it for me, and this distinctiveness issue is probably one of the hardest things that any of the Vice- Chancellors/Provosts has to answer because, of course, we have many universities set up to do roughly the same thing. So what do I think is distinctive about UCL?

Well, certainly the prominence of our history and our values is very distinctive. The fact that this university was the first university in England to award degrees to women is something that we’re incredibly proud of, so we need to keep that in mind and we need to have it as a key aspect of our future.

We are also distinctive because we’re in London, we are in a great global city and that is a huge benefit to us. We must capitalise on it, we must work in close partnership with London and I’m going to come back to that, as well, shortly.

We are also quite distinctive in some of our specific activities, I’ll just pick two: the London Centre for Nanotechnology and the work that we do in neuroscience is absolutely world-beating – but to become ever more distinctive I think I would highlight the following areas, and these are, not surprisingly, the same areas that I covered in my Lunch Hour Lecture, but what I’m going to do in this lecture is give them a slightly different emphasis, mainly because we have more of an external and more of a stakeholder-oriented audience.

  • Equality and diversity: I’m going to be quite commercial about this – the first university to get this right and to value its female staff as much as its male staff and its BME staff as much as the rest will have a distinctive, competitive advantage, so I will commit publicly now to a massive effort. These are not just words – we are going to tackle this head on and even today I’ve been emailing Nigel Waugh (Director of Human Resources) and Rex Knight (Vice-Provost, Operations) about what we can get on with quickly with regard to equality of pay within professorial bands for people within the bounds of equal performance. I think that’s a problem we can solve quite rapidly; I also think it wouldn’t necessarily cost us all that much money although I’m about to find out whether I’m right or wrong when I get the answer to my questions.
  • Access: bringing students in from low-income families. At the moment our OFFA agreement focuses on whether or not people come from state schools and whether or not they come from low-participation neighbourhoods, and we are improving both of these things, but the thing that matters most to me, deep down inside, is if you are from a low-income family have you got the opportunity to come to a university as good as this? And I think we should be really, really focused on being able to give a really good answer to that question. Again I’d like to have a major push and I’d like to be among the best in the top four or five of the Russell Group.
  • Delivering an education that inspires our students and puts them at the centre of our attention, alongside our research. If I look back to the National Student Survey and I look to the parts of the university that are doing particularly well, then one characteristic is that they do have their students right at the centre of what they do and they do value them as much as their research. They listen to their students and they change things for the better when their students are critical.

The system is perhaps at blame for these two major factors in our lives being pulled apart. I have already said that I’m a major fan of the RAE and what it’s done for our country, but that has pulled staff in one direction, and then the National Student Survey, quality assurance processes and most recently, around many universities in the country, impact on student recruitment has pulled people in the other direction. I don’t know about you, but I became an academic because I believe those two things belong very close together.

  • Research-based learning: It is my intention that we will use our research to educate our students in a very advanced and distinctive way; we will involve our students in the research process – I would call that a research-based pedagogy – I want our students to understand what knowledge is, I want them to understand how it’s created, I want them to understand that it changes with time, how it’s always just an approximation to the truth, and I want them to understand that uncertainty and I want them to learn how to deal with it.

And through that process, it would be our intention that we produce really high quality critical, independent thinkers, problem solvers, confident individuals, individuals confident in communication and, hopefully, team players and graduates therefore who are ready to thrive and succeed in our ever-more uncertain world.

Junior researchers in the lab

This brings me to my second quote – W. B. Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”, and I think that’s a really important concept. I was enthusing about this to a Times reporter yesterday and some of you might have seen and read the article today which was good except for two issues – the phrase “you sup with the devil” comes to mind: I didn’t like the headline ‘University head says must do better’, and then we were talking about how you might achieve this, and I said, “Well, of course, we would need to change our promotions criteria and we would need to look at our reward structures to make sure they’re in line with what we’re trying to achieve,” and that got interpreted as I was going to change everybody’s contract.

And then a great hit for a Vice-Chancellor/Provost is if you do an interview for a newspaper article and then you also become the subject of an associated header column, then you know you’ve had a little bit of an impact. As you know, the leaders are written by a different journalist and not the one who interviewed you, and there’s an element of Chinese whispers, so by the time the leader was written, it said something like ‘Top professors will have their contracts changed’, so I was expecting an absolute deluge of emails today. But, I would like to pay tribute to UCL who obviously know that is how journalists behave because I haven’t had a single negative email, for which I am grateful.

  • Other aspects of student experience: We want to create an experience for our students that uses and builds on our intellectual firepower, our breadth of learning opportunities, the fact that we’re in a global city and that all of the above becomes part of their inspirational journey.

This university has got a couple of programmes that try to do that; every student receives a programme of activities that encourages them to become global citizens. I think we should probably look at that – it includes things such as everyone requiring a language. I think we should review that and enhance it. And there’s also been some wonderful innovation; I recently came across the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences BASc, the four-year programme, which has got some wonderful teaching and huge enthusiasm.

  • Research and enterprise more generally; I’m actually going to be somewhat surprisingly quite brief about this because I think, in this university, it’s down to the great people we have, a significant youth policy as well and, essentially, we just need to recruit and retain the absolute best. I need to understand their requirement for autonomy, I need not to interfere too much (unless they’re doing badly, of course) and I will respect that key issue of academic freedom – I think it’s fundamentally important and I will be highly supportive of it.

We could address some more grand challenges; that’s an option for us, we could be a little different and go for some other activities – I will certainly support and encourage interdisciplinarity, which is already in the life blood of this institution – and we certainly need to create new facilities and an environment to attract the very best.

  • Quality of the estate: I think that one of the things that shocked me most when coming to UCL is the real deficit we have in terms of the quality of our estate; both that which faces our students and that which faces our researchers. 

I have a phrase that I quite like which is “with a world-class university, when you walk into one you immediately know it because it looks like it, feels like it, smells like it (that’s the flowers), people behave like it and you just instantly know it”, and I think we can do a lot to create that feeling as you walk into UCL. You get a little bit of it when you walk into the Quad, and when you walk into the Octagon and the library, but if you deviate from that path too much then you will know what I mean. Don’t look out of the window from the North Cloisters into the Physics Yard – just keep your attention inwards when you get to the reception.

  • Partnerships: This is absolutely key to our future – we need to be very generous and thoughtful in our partnership. We are of course building some new industrial partnerships – we recently entertained a Japanese company called IHI Corporation and building joint activity with them is exactly the sort of thing we want to do to enhance our international profile.

We are of course a major partner in the Academic Health Sciences Centre; ourselves, Queen Mary and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are all close partners. Those are the universities involved; of course there are also all of the hospitals and trusts; UCLH, Moorfields, GOSH, Royal Free, Bart’s Health are the key NHS players in the health sciences centre – this is another huge opportunity, particularly if we can relate that partnership to the activities of the Francis Crick Institute, once it gets going.

There are also, of course, all of the charities associated with all of those hospitals and institutions, and partnerships working between their development offices and ours is already happening, and is proving highly successful. Just last week we received a £5 million award towards helping Moorfields, from the Jules Thorne Trust. We also opened the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre last week, so a great partnership, and we have a great partnership also with the Rosetrees Trust.

We have got very significant partnerships working with other higher education institutions – the Institute of Education, the London School I’ve already mentioned, some of our REF submission will be joint, for example with Birkbeck, and we have a positive relationship – one that I am working to improve – with the University of London.

We’ve got good relationships with King’s – I think Ed Byrne going to King’s is another opportunity and I’m already exchanging correspondence with him. If you look at who our partnership working is currently most active with, it’s most prominent with Imperial. If you look at the joint authorship of research papers, by far the most joint activity is with Imperial College. It goes beyond that – we’ve joined together with Imperial and King’s all our three Academic Health Science Centres into an executive group, so we’re working jointly across and that’s driving a number of new initiatives. We are also working in another new partnership with all of that together with Oxford and Cambridge. I don’t need to explain to you how powerful all of that is and how productive it is likely to be.

  • International strategy: If I move to our international strategy, I think we have a huge opportunity to be distinctive. The approach today has been to focus at the institutional level – on a small number of postgraduate, research-intensive activities, usually single faculty with UCL Australia and UCL Qatar – and we’re also supporting the development of Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. 

It is important to say that as we renew and revise our international strategy that where we’ve made commitments, where we’ve made legal and contractual but also moral obligations to students and staff in those universities, we will of course fulfil them, so they should not worry about UCL revisiting other things that we might do in an international context.

We have a major partnership with Yale; I was absolutely delighted this week to receive a letter from Peter Salovey, the new President of Yale, saying that he was involved himself when he was Yale’s Provost at the start of the relationship with UCL, and he’s very keen for it to grow stronger, and we will enjoy responding to that invitation.

We’re also developing some new relationships in America; we were out in New York recently and I came across a joint programme between our school of Political Sciences and NYU – a joint programme has been put together, literally a joint degree, with a Masters of Public Administration.

However, if you take all of the above I still think we need something more distinctive than that, and I think we need a unifying theme. This afternoon I was in discussions with the MRC unit for clinical trials (one of the MRC units that has just migrated to UCL), and we had a really good discussion about what we might do that’s different regarding their international activity (as I already have with others involved in global health around the rest of UCL, and with other parts of the university such as the Developmental Planning Unit).

What we would be interested in doing is working with other higher education institutions, governments, NGOs, industry, and particularly in the global South where I think our style would be to listen, adapt, give perhaps rather than take, problem solve, be useful and be respectful of the needs of our partners and their future. In order to do that well, I would be interested in creating a network of like-minded partners, those who are interested in building a partnership that matters.

  • Alumni: The support of alumni is critical to me, and I know there are many with us in tonight’s audience. There are 150,000 alumni at UCL now distributed across some 180 countries and I see this group as being an absolute key force for the future of UCL. And this is what I want you to do – alumni are a significant factor in controlling the reputation of UCL, you can influence our profile and our brand value. So all of you who are here tonight, if you’ve been impressed by what I’ve had to say, please do tweet or post on Facebook and please be proud of UCL and its future.

When I recently made a speech like this in America, the American alumni said that they felt like they’d been given permission to be ambassadors for UCL and I think that’s a really good phrase; you are ambassadors for UCL, get out there and do something really useful. Supporting our current students and recent graduates is another key task for alumni. Please feel free to come back into the institution – we can tee up for you to do things like brown bag lunches and other events where you can come and literally tell your life story, because our students will be hanging off your every word, I promise you.

Of course many of you are highly successful UCL graduates; you employ people, so don’t hang back, do shortlist our students and then just give them the job. So what am I talking about? A network to equal, or perhaps rival that which would be commonplace in English society, from Oxford and Cambridge. Please do bring all of your contacts to UCL as well.

  • Philanthropy was really important in British higher education between the two wars – it fell away with the state funding of higher education, and universities lost the culture of asking. What most of us are finding is that if you reinstate that culture of asking, the culture of giving has not been lost and this is going on in higher education all across the UK, so we will of course be asking our alumni and other financial supporters for financial contributions. 

Your contribution will add excellence and distinctiveness to our core. You should be able to see a direct line between the money you might give and us achieving our strategic ambitions. We haven’t yet settled on a figure, but we’re aiming somewhere between £600 million and £1 billion to raise over the course of our next campaign.

I’m almost finished, but of course a few thank yous. I have had a wonderful career and I could not have possibly achieved that without the support of my wife and family –  they’ve put up with me throughout, travelling abroad a lot, not spending too much time at home – living-apart-together syndrome I think it’s called – while I was up in Leeds and commuting weekends in both directions, and some of my children barely saw very much of me at some stages of my career.

Success is always a team effort; I’d like to thank all of my colleagues in medicine and higher education, particularly those from Southampton and those from Leeds. The Russell group – particularly Dr Wendy Piatt and the team in the Russell Group; I was Chair for three years and had a wonderful time, and Wendy literally taught me everything I currently know about how to deal with Whitehall and central government.

To my colleague Russell Group Vice-Chancellors as well, as a ready-made peer group. It is a bit lonely at the top of these institutions and there’s nothing like being able to pick up the phone to colleagues who are tackling the same things.

Also, I would like to thank all of my new colleagues at UCL; you are simply outstanding, a wonderful team of Vice-Provosts and Deans, but let me go further – I’ve had a wonderful reception everywhere I’ve been around UCL among all of the academic, professional and support staff. It’s been an amazing time and what I’ve found is great ideas, great energy and great commitment to the future of UCL.

So I’m going to finish with another quote, and on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy I thought that this quotation was particularly pertinent. “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled can be translated into a benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” And I think he also meant our nation, the United Kingdom, and our world.

President & Provost’s Inaugural Lecture (PDF, 168k)

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