Ladies and Gentlemen, what do I say when I’m being introduced by my former tutor. I was here at Cambridge 41 years ago now and I know all about the speech defect that Dr. Seal was talking about because you can imagine taking my essays to him as an interesting experience. Another reason why I don’t really want to make a speech in front of him because I’ll then get a critique at the end of it probably. But I was very lucky indeed to have him as my tutor all those years ago.
I’ve so enjoyed going around this afternoon and meeting as many of you as I possibly can. I apologise if I didn’t manage to meet all of you. But I slightly worry about how I have been recorded on all these cameras and telephones being pointed at me throughout the course of the afternoon!
What has somewhat alarmed me is to find out that I must be about the same age as some of your fathers I think, judging by some of the things I’ve been told by various of you as I was going around. I also realise that I share a 60th birthday this year with the state of Israel so it was very nice meeting some of the Israeli students here this afternoon so I could wish them a happy anniversary.
I find it extraordinary to think that 26 years ago when this whole enterprise was begun, and I must pay tribute to Dr. Seal because he and his extraordinary energy and determination have really driven all this on, which has made these Trusts have now become amazingly effective and influential. They’ve now helped more 14,000 students from overseas. Long ago achieving what in 1982 seemed an impossible target set by the trustees of helping twice the number of students that the Rhodes Trust supports at Oxford. Now that’s an extraordinary thought but it’s true now and the number today of the Trust’s scholars in Cambridge is actually more than ten times that which its friendly rival supports. I thought we must just get that little point in every now and then. Don’t worry I help Oxford in a lot with other things.
When you think in 1982, when all these Trusts began their work, Cambridge had less than 800 overseas students in all. Last year the figure was about 3500 with well over half of them supported by the Trust. But I think the pre-eminent yardstick really is the high quality of the overseas students, which Cambridge attracts attributable in substantial measure to the Trust so helping to keep Cambridge at the top of the league of universities the world over. Many of which have far greater resources than Cambridge could ever possibly possess.
If I may say so, thinking about the success of the Trust reminds me that none of it would have been possible without the help of Lord Carrington who together with Anil Seal and myself are probably the founding fathers of this enterprise. And Lord Howe who has also played such an incredibly important role in developing the work and success of the Trust.
I also just wanted to pay tribute to Lord Lewis and Sir Brian Heap, Executive and Deputy Executive Chairman respectively, who very rationally agreed to be my personal representatives on this Trust when I can’t always attend the meetings.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, the challenges that face the Trust are, as in so many other matters, both from within and from outside. And the Trust while being independent achieve what they do by working closely but also swiftly and effectively with the university and colleges, which is in Cambridge’s best interest. But I think we need to remember that at the end of the day, the simple remit of the Trust to enable needy but able students from overseas to take-up their places. And we have to remind ourselves of the self-evident truth that academic ability and pockets sufficiently deep to meet the high cost of studying here, do not always go together, as Dr. Seal was saying.
So it is marvellous that all you very talented young scholars for whom presumably the world’s best universities are your oyster have actually chosen to come to this university. You have paid Cambridge an enormous compliment and I think Cambridge is committed to proving that it deserves to be the beneficiary of your choice.
Finally, I just wanted to say that the future of this increasingly uncertain world will be in your hands and you don’t need me to stress the enormous challenges faced by the world. Before I came here this afternoon I was visiting the British Antarctic Survey and looking at ice cores that they’ve been taking down in the Antarctic, which of course do help to remind us of the way in which things have changed so dramatically and global temperatures have risen so dramatically in the recent past and in fact they are rapidly rising now. So you have these huge challenges to try and deal with.
If I may say so, after 23years spent amongst other things trying to encourage something called Corporate Social Responsibility, and I can tell you that 23years ago nobody wanted to know about this at all. I’ve been trying to encourage the development of partnerships between the private, public and NGO sectors because only this way I believe increasingly are we going to able to deal with these immense challenges.
When I first started on this enterprise of trying to encourage these partnerships you could hardly ever get a private sector company to sit down with an NGO and talk to them. Now of course it happens more all the time. I find now that I’m being lectured by my God-children’s generation, in their thirties, about Corporate Social Responsibility having no idea that I had anything to do with it.
So having met quite a lot of you today and many of you seem to be studying Engineering for Sustainable Development, clearly a very important subject. But the problem we all face is that many of these technologies take quite a long time to come into effect so we have a very short timescale in which to try and find a way of bringing a halt to the deforestation of the rainforest throughout the central belt of the world. Because of the rapidity with which these forests are being lost and we are rapidly losing their ability to absorb carbon. So what it seems to me is crucial is finding a way to reward those rainforest countries for the eco-system services provided by the forests and to enable 1.4billion of the poorest people on earth who live in these areas to have a better and more integrated future. So it seems to me that the easiest, cheapest and quickest way of creating a win as far as climate change is concerned is actually through storing carbon naturally and ensuring that those rainforests are worth more alive than dead. At the moment they’re worth more dead than alive. If we can buy that window of opportunity and remove their twenty per cent of the contribution to global warming then we have bought a bit of time before all of you, I hope, will be able to produce the kind of technologies that we’ll be able to depend on. But at the moment they aren’t going to arrive soon enough. So it is an enormous urgency to tackle this particular challenge.
But I can only salute you for your remarkable intelligence and determination and I pray that what you learn here in Cambridge will be put to the greatest possible effect all around the world because we need you badly.
Having said that, I just wanted to thank my old tutor and old friend Dr. Seal who will step down as Director on October 1st. I just wanted to say today that I really am so grateful to him for this huge contribution that he’s made over the last 26 years and I’m very glad to hear that he will be maintaining his connection with the Trust by becoming their Principal Adviser on external affairs. So with any luck he’ll see me out I suspect.
And I would very much like to welcome his successor Michael O’Sullivan into the role of Director in his footsteps.
So ladies and Gentlemen, having interrupted your studies for long enough you can always blame me if you don’t pass your exams!