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Tribute to outgoing University of Leicester Vice-Chancellor, Sir Robert Burgess at Alumni dinner (Claridge’s, Thursday 20th February 2014) February 22, 2014

Posted by AaronPorter in Higher Education.
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– Over the last 5 years, at Alumni dinners year in, year out we have been able to hear a series of fantastic achievements which the university has accomplished. From the developments which have helped to transform campus such as the David Wilson Library and re-development of the Percy Gee SU building, through to internationally significant find of Richard III, the exquisite development to halls of Residence in Oadby and now the developments of the £42m  Medical Building.

– The quite momentous rise & rise of the University of the Leicester since 1999 has been overseen by the distinguished leadership of Sir Robert Burgess. After nearly 15 years of quite outstanding stewardship the Vice-Chancellor retires at the end of the academic year. The VC’s contribution to the University has been little short of extraordinary and his retirement marks the end of an illustrious chapter in the university’s history.

– I know that whether you were a student under Bob’s tenure or as a graduate before he arrived, we can ALL be proud of his tremendous achievements. Under his guidance this is a university that has now soared into the UK’s top 20  universities – and he will tell you if you consult the best tables the top 10 –  is consistently scored as one of England’s leading university for student satisfaction, and is the only university to have won awards at the Times Higher Education awards in every year since 2007 – including the coveted university of the year.

– To steal one of the VC’s best lines, ‘even if we graduated before he arrived, we all benefit from the continued success of the university’.

– As a students’ union leader and then as President of the National Union of Students, I always found Bob to be an exemplar of what you’d hope from a university vice-chancellor. Indeed my first encounter with the VC came as an undergraduate student in the Department of English, when in my final year I edited The Ripple student newspaper (now an online publication) I secured an interview with him, and like any budding writer at the time was hoping to trip him up. Of course he glided through the interview seamlessly and left me with nothing other than good news stories to write about. During my time at the students’ union he was a model Vice-Chancellor to work with, placing partnership, collaboration and crucially the student interest at the heart of everything he did.

– At NUS, I worked with dozens of Bob’s colleagues at universities across the UK. Without exception their interactions with him have been exemplary, and he was widely acknowledged by his Vice-Chancellor counterparts as not having made a transformational impact on the University of Leicester, but also to the higher education sector in the UK more widely. In addition to his outstanding work at Leicester, he has chaired a hatful of national committees his legacy will not just be restricted to our university or the city of Leicester, but in many respects right across the UK.

– So whilst 2014 marks the beginning of a new and exciting era for the university, the VCs achievements of the last 15 years leave an indelible and lasting imprint of the university I know we can all be immensely proud of. For all who have had the pleasure of working with him, I know I can speak on behalf of them all by saying he has been a pleasure to work alongside, a wonderful ambassador for the university and if I may say personally a tremendous mentor.

– I know we’d all like to wish the Vice Chancellor a rewarding and fulfilling next phase in his life and that together with Lady Burgess wish them both the very best for the future.

I’d now like to invite Patrick Mulvihill as Chair of the Alumni Association to make a presentation to the Vice-Chancellor.