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The Presidential Visit

Text of Vice Chancellor Sir Brian K. Follett's Speech


Sir Brian K. Follett

University of Warwick

Coventry, Warwickshire, England

Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. It is with a genuine sense of creating history that I welcome the President of the United States, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the University of Warwick. We are honoured by your presence and also by that of the First Lady - Senator Elect Clinton, Mrs Blair and Chelsea Clinton.

It is fitting that a university is the setting for your address on the challenges faced by the world in the coming decades. Humankind must be assured that the science underpinning any changes is robust and correct: it is the business of universities to provide that information in a form the public will trust. A greater challenge perhaps will be the political, legal and economic changes required and here Warwick can lay claim to world authority. In the current academic year 600 graduate students are taking master's degrees in the very subjects covered by your address: international political economy, international economic law, ethnicity and ecosystem management. It is these modern subjects which Warwick specialises in.

We are in Shakespeare's country with Stratford but twenty minutes away by motorcade. His genius always provides apt quotations and in Henry VI Part Two, a powerful Duke Chides the Earl of Warwick with the phrase "ambitious Warwick, let thy betters speak!". Important for us to remember that on a day such as this. But I cannot omit the Earl's riposte "Warwick may live to be the best of all!".

You are visiting, Mr President, a contemporary university that has achieved much in its 40 years but understands that continuing drive and energy will be needed for us to become a great world university. Our beliefs are simply put:

  • First, to be excellent in teaching and research, whilst at the same time stressing that relevance to society.
  • Secondly, to be socially inclusive, and also international. Education remains the most powerful means available for the individual person to succeed and whilst we have demanding standards of entry, we welcome 16,000 students from across the social range and from over 100 countries. That internationalism applies also to our faculty and in the last eight years a third of our new appointments have come from overseas.
  • Thirdly, to be self-reliant and innovative. That applies academically and also financially where only just over a quarter of our income now derives from state grants.
  • Fourthly, to ensure our prosperity creates jobs and social improvement in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Your presence here Mr President reminds us that these approaches to building a university reflect the best of America. A "can do", "will respond" approach and a firm belief in self help. Just to ensure we never forget these ideals we indulge in our own version of Anglo-Americanism. So far Warwick has chosen four Vice-Chancellors: the first and third have been British, the second and the fourth who arrives next academic year are American!

Mr President and Senator Clinton, all of us who work and study at Warwick are delighted you should visit us. My final duty is to invite our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to address us.

Thank you.