Speech: Vice-Chancellor’s Awards Opening Address, 22 October 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you all to this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.

One of the pleasures in a VC’s job is to help celebrate the amazing contributions made by colleagues from across our University community.

There’s a saying that goes like this: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”  It could be anyone’s saying, but I think it is from Confucius — and I promise I will not mention another Confucius saying!

Well, our finalists this evening have certainly put their “personal excellence” in the service of Surrey.

They are all outstanding examples of the University’s commitment to the highest standards in teaching, research and student experience. All of our finalists should be immensely proud of the part they’ve played in Surrey’s success and its rising reputation as a top university.

Tonight we celebrate the highest calibre of teaching and research, which feeds the life of the mind and makes Surrey a place where the best and brightest young people want to continue their academic journey. It is reflected in our TEF Gold award, and in our continued high performance in international league tables.

We also recognise the work of staff from professional services, who have gone above and beyond in creating a first-rate environment for learning, innovation, and personal development. From day-to-day roles that keep the University running smoothly as a vibrant learning community, to quietly inspirational management roles, these colleagues have shown the determination, imagination and compassion that define true leadership and camaraderie.

This is why we have received a Guardian University Award for student experience, and a THE Leadership & Management Award for Outstanding Student Services.

What does excellence really mean in this context, and in our day-to-day work?  To me it means:

  • Putting your ideas, energy and skills at the service of the wider community, rather than keeping it for yourself
  • Going above and beyond what is required or adequate
  • Giving more because your character compels you to, not because of others’ expectations
  • Finding ways to work better and more efficiently, and perform to a higher standard
  • Through ingenuity, inspiration, passion and dedication, showing others the way to be their best.

It reminds me of the famous quote by Henry Ford: ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’

Tonight, we celebrate people who think they can.

In a growing and incredibly busy organisation, it is all too easy to forget how important it is to pause and recognise the great contributions that make growth possible.

It is also very important to say ‘thank you’ – so, on behalf of all of the community in and around the University of Surrey, I would like to say ‘thank you’ for all that you have done and all that you continue to do.

I am proud of your individual achievements and of our collective successes, and it gives me great pleasure to extend my warm congratulations to all of our finalists and winners. I hope you have a marvellous evening.

Thank you.