Reasons to be proud
At the University of Warwick, we are about to see over 4000 students graduate at ceremonies over the course of this week. During our degree ceremonies, we will give out four awards for teaching excellence, nine outstanding student contribution awards, 10 honorary degrees and one Chancellor’s Medal. 460 staff will support the events: participating in the academic procession for each ceremony, giving orations, handing out certificates, directing traffic, answering queries and so much more behind the scenes. We are delighted to share our celebrations with local councillors, alumni, and of course the parents, families and friends of our graduates, those who have supported and championed our students throughout their studies, and will continue to do so as our graduates take their next steps in life.
Degree ceremonies are a time of immense pride and celebration for all of us. The nervous smiles and grins of sheer joy on people’s faces as they walk onto the stage to receive their awards are wonderful to see. Those grins are well-deserved, I know how hard students work to get to this point, and how exciting their futures will be. I am proud to be able to play a part in their celebrations, and proud to be part of a University that attracts the best students and produces such fantastic graduates.
Three other things have happened recently that have also given me particular reason to be proud.
The first was the public launch at the Godiva Festival of Coventry’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2021. Alongside Coventry City Council and Coventry University, Warwick is a partner to the bid and is great to see the bid taking shape, and the support from arts and cultural organisations, neighbourhood communities, businesses and schools to showcase all Coventry has to offer when it comes to culture and the arts. Warwick will do all we can to support the bid, as we are proud to be part of this great and creative city, at such an exciting time.
The second is the agreement made recently between the University of Warwick, Coventry University and Coventry and Warwickshire local government leaders to unite in our resolve that the concerns, interests and opportunities for growth in the region must have their voice heard in forthcoming negotiations following the recent EU referendum. Our region is home to a great many global companies and talented people from around the world. We also welcome the many international students who not only contribute to the economy, social fabric, and cultural life of our region, but become global ambassadors for the city and county. We know the challenges ahead as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU, but I’m proud that we can work together in the region to show that we are committed to continuing to attract the international investment and global partnerships that bring economic growth.
The third, and related, event was an all-staff meeting we held at Warwick last week on the EU referendum. As organisations are doing across the UK, we are starting to come to terms with what the future may look like following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Many of our staff feel very deeply and personally affected by the decision to leave the EU, many more are concerned about what it might mean for the diversity of our international community, and for the teaching and research collaborations we have with partners across Europe. At the meeting, we discussed concerns, questions, developments. But we also found a truly positive sense of solidarity: that we will all use every opportunity we can, at whatever level, to influence the current debate. Along with our partners and friends across the region, Warwick will continue to be an international institution, with Europe as important to our activities, community and values as ever. And we will play our part to champion and argue for the post-referendum outcomes that we believe will be the best for the UK’s future. I’m deeply proud of the collective commitment of Warwick staff to do this.
Whether you’re just graduating from University, or looking at how the UK’s new future in Europe might affect you personally, or affect your work or studies - of course, there are challenges ahead. But, personally, as I face challenges in the future, I’m going to remember these things that make me proud to be part of the University of Warwick: our students and graduates, the bright possibilities for our region, the value of our regional relationships, and the strength of our staff community. I hope our staff, friends and graduates can do the same.