Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, distinguished guests, graduates.

Thank you for inviting me today to participate in this Graduation Ceremony and thank you to Bishop Grosseteste University for the honour bestowed upon me through the granting of a Doctoral Degree, honoris causa.

I am humbled and privileged in equally measure. I was born and raised in Lincolnshire (in Boston), I was a junior anaesthetist at the Lincoln County Hospital, and I have a long association with the Lincolnshire Army Cadet Force headquartered nearby. It is where I still reside today.

This honorary degree means more to me than you can imagine.

You are attending this ceremony today because you have recently, successfully, completed a period of your education at this university.

Education is perhaps the greatest gift you can be given; and once given it cannot ever then be taken away from you. It open doors for you and it opens your mind to new ideas, creativity and things you never knew existed before.

You may have noticed that I said “completed a period of your education at this year university” and I did that because I can assure that your learning will not stop here. This fine University has given you the skills and platform to build, learn more and continually challenge the status-quo. Do not stop learning.

The past 17 months have been immensely difficult, including for all of you here today who have had your education and lives so dramatically disrupted.

I know these months have been by far the hardest months of my professional career.

Bishop Grosseteste university has a long and proud tradition of education but especially one in recent years of training people for lives of service, delivering education, health and social care, as well as protecting mental wellbeing.

Never have these services been more important.

We cannot and should not shy away from the fact that children and young adults have suffered during this pandemic. The loss of education, the reduced social interactions and the impact of lockdowns on their mental health will be significant.

The health and social care ecosystem has had to survive a massive shock – sadly in some parts of the world it has partially collapsed. The work of our health and social care teams has been truly extraordinary. I am proud to call them my colleagues. Some of you may have even volunteered to support the COVID response and on behalf of everyone here, I want to thank you.

Many of you graduating today will be involved in the recovery from this pandemic.

This will be a big professional challenge for you in the years to come but I cannot understate how important your work will be.

How we rebuild and how we restructure will impact every citizen in this country and the generations that follow. It can be a watershed moment in history, and you will be the ones shaping it because education is the cornerstone of society.

We are now, cautiously, heading to a safer and normal world. This is in large part thanks to the science discoveries at universities around the world.

In addition to the health and social care workers, they also produced the science graduates, and the scientific breakthroughs that have enabled us to produce Covid-19 vaccines for the world in timeframes that would have been simply unimaginable one decade ago.

The Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine is largely a product of British university educations. Over 400M doses have already been distributed into the global supply chains, on a not-for-profit basis, and over 2/3rds of this volume has gone to low and middle income countries. Thousands and thousands of lives have been saved.

Vaccines, therapeutics, excellent health and social care workers are all the fruits of good education.

I will conclude with three closing comments

  1. Thank you for the honour of this degree. I am truly humbled.
  2. I want to remind you of the value of the education you have received from this university. I encourage you to hold on to the value of education throughout your future professional lives. In due course, pass this on to your children.
  3. I want to say to the new graduates from this university – do not sit on the side lines; roll-up your sleeves and rebuild the world you want to see.