On Wednesday, 11 May, HRH The Duke of Cambridge visited the University of Oxford to formally open the home of the Blavatnik School of Government where he met students and staff. He also unveiled a plaque to mark the major redevelopment of the Bodleian’s Weston Library and visited students at Magdalen, one of the University’s oldest colleges, where he officially opened its new Longwall Library.
The Blavatnik School of Government is the UK’s first school of government, with a mission to inspire and support better government and public policy around the world. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the stunning new building has already received an award for ‘architectural excellence’ from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The Duke of Cambridge addressed students, faculty members and visitors, saying: ‘In my visits to other countries, and around the United Kingdom, I meet many people who give remarkable service to their communities: elected officials, members of the armed forces, charity workers, medics and many others – people who are deeply committed to public service. Many of them are animated by dreams and visions of how their societies can be improved. I can see that the research carried out here and the skills taught here are a means of translating those dreams into practical reality.’
The Blavatnik School of Government currently has 117 Master of Public Policy (MPP) students from 54 countries and territories, as well as nine students studying for a doctorate (DPhil) in Public Policy. The Duke’s visit was marked by the announcement of a new, permanent scholarship scheme to encourage talented students from the UK to study at the Blavatnik School of Government, regardless of financial means. The new Duke of Cambridge Scholarship at the University of Oxford will fully fund a UK student to study for the MPP and share experiences with other students from across the world.
Based on financial need and thanks to considerable donor support, around 80 per cent of the School’s students receive some form of financial support, with over half of them receiving full funding to meet tuition fees and living costs. Research in the School is also thriving, with partnerships with major foundations and most recently with the UK Cabinet Office.
In my visits to other countries, and around the United Kingdom, I meet many people who give remarkable service to their communities: elected officials, members of the armed forces, charity workers, medics and many others – people who are deeply committed to public service. Many of them are animated by dreams and visions of how their societies can be improved. I can see that the research carried out here and the skills taught here are a means of translating those dreams into practical reality.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge, in his address at the official opening of the Blavatnik School of Government.
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘We are delighted that the Duke has been able to visit Oxford today to see some of our most ancient libraries as they are redeveloped for the 21st century, as well as our newest School in its wonderful futuristic building. The challenges facing the world today require sound public policy, good governance and creative thinking if they are to be tackled successfully. Thanks to the generosity of Mr Leonard Blavatnik, new generations of smart and ambitious students from around the world will receive the academic, professional and practical education necessary to improve public policy and global governance.’
Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, said: ‘ The presence of the Duke of Cambridge was a particular privilege, which we decided to mark with a gift that looks to the future. The Duke of Cambridge Scholarship at the University of Oxford will open an opportunity for future British leaders from all backgrounds. It has been made possible by the generosity of Leonard Blavatnik, donors to University College, and the University of Oxford.’
Earlier in the day, the Duke officially opened the Weston Library, one of the University’s Bodleian Libraries which has recently undergone a £80 million transformation. He toured this state-of-the-art special collections library, where scholarship, research, digitisation and conservation take place. The Library is home to more than one million items from the Bodleian’s historic collections, including two Shakespeare First Folios and four original Magna Cartas. The building also has new public facilities: exhibition galleries, a café and shop. On his tour of the Library, the Duke visited the Conservation Studio and a Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room. He was shown a display of historic objects, including a key used by King George VI to open what was then called the New Bodleian in 1946.
In his speech at the formal opening, the Duke said: ‘It is humbling to know that the tradition of libraries here in Oxford goes back over 800 years. Everything about this place is steeped in a long experience of imparting knowledge and education, and the humanising and civilising effect that has on our societies. In the 400 or so years since that great man Sir Thomas Bodley established this institution for the good of all people, much has changed about the Bodleian but in its heart nothing has changed.’
Bodley’s Librarian, Richard Ovenden, said: ‘We are delighted to have welcomed the Duke of Cambridge to officially open the Weston Library. His visit comes exactly 70 years since his great-grandfather, King George VI, originally opened the building. Now the Weston Library is a world-leading centre for scholarship and research and a place for the public to discover more about the Bodleian and Oxford University’s unique and distinctive collections.’
Earlier in the day, the Duke also officially opened the new Longwall Library at Magdalen College. The college, founded in 1458, boasts nine Nobel Prize winners among its former Fellows and alumni.
President David Clary, President of Magdalen College, said: ‘It is a great honour for Magdalen College to have our Longwall Library opened by the Duke of Cambridge. It follows a substantial and imaginative refurbishment and extension of a building which started as a school hall back in 1851. This has nearly tripled the number of work spaces available for our students.’