'Make a real difference to society', Vice-Chancellor tells graduates

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Date: 4th Sep 2019

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Braisby addressed around 1,600 graduates, and their families, this week telling them that they have ‘acquired the knowledge, skills and understanding to help make a real difference to society’ as they enter the ‘next exciting phase’ of their lives.

He said: ‘We are proud to celebrate your achievements and wish you well for the future. I also wish to reflect on the challenges you have overcome on your journey and the vital support you have enjoyed along the way. As Oprah Winfrey once said: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

"I would like to pay a tribute to the staff of the University. I know that they go the extra mile for their students, work tirelessly to support them and ensure their success.

Prof Nick Braisby graduation
"But we must also recognise that you could not have succeeded without the support of your friends, family, and loved ones.

"Of course, many people have not had the opportunity for higher education – they have had to face different challenges, ones that defined them and the times in which they lived. As Martin Luther King said, our 'ultimate measure …is not where [we] stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [we] stand at times of challenge and controversy'.

"Eighty years ago this week, along with France, Britain and its then dominions, such as India, and crown colonies, such as Jamaica, went to war with Germany. The Second World War was a conflict that would claim millions of lives, mostly civilian, and leave virtually no country on the planet untouched. And earlier this year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. My father Dennis was among the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces that landed on the Normandy coast. He was a young man of 20, and I am very proud of the sacrifices he made in the struggle against tyranny and fascism.

"This year we have also commemorated other anniversaries, equally defining of the people who rose to the challenges of their time.

"In the summer of 1969, events in Northern Ireland precipitated the conflict known as “the troubles”, enduring for decades and involving much loss of life. That summer also saw the Stonewall riots in New York, an extraordinary occasion when members of the LGBT community fought back after a police raid. And we remember too the challenge laid out by President Jack Kennedy of landing a person on the moon and returning them safely to Earth, not because it was easy but because it was hard.

Prof Nick Braisby

"We cannot all go to the moon, of course – though if you earn enough and live long enough you may get the chance – but in the next stage of your journey you will be able to use your knowledge, skills and understanding in rising to the challenges of your time.

"Those challenges are different, but no less daunting. We see threats to the stability of Europe and to the stability of Northern Ireland, the prized achievements of those who have gone before.  We face the challenge of being an increasingly ageing society, and needing ever greater levels of health and social care. We see rising intolerance, increasing prejudice and discrimination. Inequalities across the globe seem to be increasing, not reducing, and we are experiencing the damaging effects of a global climate that is changing because of human activity. We see the denial of facts, attacks on truth and reason, attacks on expertise, and attacks on liberal values such as diversity and equality that underpin the ethos of this University.

"These are just some of the challenges you will face and, as those who have gone before, you will face a choice of how to respond. One thing is sure, you can be confident that you have the knowledge, skills and understanding, as well as tenacity and determination, to rise to these challenges and defend the values that have enabled you to succeed. As the Dalai Lama has said “with realisation of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world”.

"I am proud that the University is highly skilled at rising to the challenges it faces, and this week we also celebrate the many successes enjoyed by the University over the past year.

"In May, we were especially proud to open the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA), the first physical location of its kind dedicated to Britain’s disability arts movement.

‘The University was successful in bidding for Local Enterprise Partnership funding of £1.6m to support our growing partnership work at Pinewood Studios, and in bidding with partners for OfS funding of £2m for work on mental health analytics. We were successful in winning a substantial new tender to deliver degree apprenticeships for the Thames Valley Police.

Prof Nick Braisby graduation
‘We attained a Gold rating for our work in corporate social responsibility, were nominated for two awards in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCA), won two awards at the Student Nursing Times Awards and we won Varsity – the annual sporting competition with the University of Roehampton.

"We have enjoyed much success in national league tables, driven by our continued position in the top quartile of UK Universities for student satisfaction.

"I am sure that the University will continue to enjoy many successes in the years to come and we will always argue for the things we believe are right. At the heart of our new University strategy is the need to meet all our social responsibilities – working with our communities and partners, supporting our students and staff in working for good causes, and addressing our impact on the climate, among others. We will continue our work to combat discrimination and prejudice, striving to eliminate, for example, the inequalities facing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in higher education.

"And as we rise to our challenges you can be sure that you have every warm wish, support and encouragement from this University in meeting the ones that you face. Your involvement with the University does not stop – you are members of the Bucks family, and we hope you will remain active in our alumni association and consider coming back to study with us again.

"It only remains for me to offer you again my sincerest and most heartfelt congratulations. Very well done!"

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