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Vice-Chancellor's welcome address at special honorary degree ceremony for BA Festival of Science

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, I am delighted to welcome the British Association to the University and to the City for the Annual Festival of Science. The University is very pleased to open this meeting with a special degree ceremony to celebrate the work of our distinguished honorary graduates who in different ways have contributed to the public understanding of science.

All degree ceremonies are special but this is a very special occasion. First, it marks the opening of the Festival of Science that has previously visited Leicester in 1907, 1933 and 1972. This Festival provides a forum to present the work of over 400 researchers, 50 of whom are drawn from science and social science in this University – a reminder of the importance we accord to research and the dissemination of research activities. Second, the Festival of Science comes towards the end of the University’s 80th Anniversary celebrations which have been marked by special lectures, seminars and exhibitions for members of the public demonstrating the importance we accord to establishing links with the community 

Other highlights in our 80th year have been special visits that has included the inauguration of our Institute of Lifelong Learning by the Rt Hon Estelle Morris, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, when she referred to us as 'a role model for the higher education system'. But you might ask, why should she say that?

  • We are a research-intensive University contributing to the knowledge-based economy.
  • We are in the top 10 universities in the UK for our research grant and contract income received for each full-time member of staff.
  • Teaching is at the forefront of our activities and closely linked with research. It has been regarded as excellent by all independent assessors who have visited twelve subject departments over the last three years.
  • We are involved in widening access and widening participation by not just engaging in debates about lifelong learning, but by attracting people from different social groups to the University in order that they may share in the success in which we are involved. We meet and exceed our benchmarks.
  • We engage in two year foundation degrees and in the coming year we are to start a Foundation Degree in Health and Illness (so someone joining the Health and Illness Foundation Degree could, within seven years, having transferred to the MBChB, become a doctor). 
  • We are a major University that contributes to distance learning as over 6,000 of our students are registered for distance learning courses.

But fundamental to it all are the people who work in the University. Indeed, the arrangements for this Annual meeting have been led with great distinction by Professor John Holloway, our Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

But what are the challenges for researchers and teachers engaged in science and social science?

We need

  • To continue to conduct high quality research that can be effectively communicated to policy makers, practitioners and members of the public – but this requires appropriate resources (from Government, from other sponsors and from self-help).
  • To continue to actively work on how science can be used in innovative training regionally, nationally and internationally.
  • To encourage more students to study science in higher education which will mean innovative degree programmes in science.
  • And finally and most importantly, we need to persuade more students to train as teachers of science and social science as they will excite and enthuse future generations of students and researchers.

The University of Leicester has much to contribute to this work.

I hope the Leicester meeting will be memorable – full of discussion and debate that will advance our understanding of science. Have an enjoyable day and a splendid week with us.

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Last updated: 13 September 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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