Colleagues, students, alumni, friends,

I am glad to be speaking once again from the Senate House, and to welcome you all to a new academic year.

Though there are only a few of us gathered here, it is good to be once again sharing this annual address remotely with many more of you – a method of communication that we have become all too used to in the past year.

Earlier today, we held the first Congregation of the new academic year, for the annual election by the Regent House of the Proctors and their Deputies required by Statute and Special Ordinance.

I congratulate Dr John Fawcett, of Churchill College and The Revd Dr Mark Smith, of Clare College on their election.

I thank the retiring Proctors, Dr Karen Ottewell and Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, and all those who worked with them over the past year, especially Ms Sheila Scarlett, who has just stood down as Esquire Bedell.

I warmly acknowledge those senior colleagues who have finished terms of service to collegiate Cambridge over the past year:

After more than 30 years, Dame Polly Courtice stepped down as Founding Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

I was delighted to welcome Ms Clare Shine as her successor.

Professor Christoph Loch finished his tenure as head of the Judge Business School.

We are very fortunate to have Professor Mauro Guillén now with us as the Judge’s new Director.

Mr Paul Mylrea has retired as Director of External Affairs and Communications.

Prof Eilís Ferran has just stepped down as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations.

Professor Kamal Munir today begins his term as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for University Community and Engagement.

He joins a distinguished team that now includes Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, who became Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research following the death in service of Professor Chris Abell – and who, from January 2022, will be our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and International Partnerships.

Among the Colleges, Lord Grabiner stepped down as Master of Clare College; The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris as Master of Trinity Hall; Dame Fiona Reynolds as Master of Emmanuel College; Dame Barbara Stocking as President of Murray Edwards College; Professor Geoffrey Ward as Principal of Homerton College; and, after a tenure of twenty years, Professor David Yates, as Warden of Robinson College.

It gives me great pleasure formally to welcome in their places Ms Dorothy Byrne at Murray Edwards; Lieutenant-General Douglas Chalmers at Emmanuel; Sir Richard Heaton at Robinson; Ms Loretta Minghella at Clare; and Lord Woolley of Woodford at Homerton.

In April, our University community joined in the national mourning for His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, our Chancellor for thirty-five years from 1976, and also in that role Visitor to a number of Colleges.

We reflected on his passing with sorrow, but also marked with gratitude an outstanding record of service to Collegiate Cambridge.

With sadness, we commemorate today University colleagues who have died while in post over the past 12 months:

  • Professor Chris Abell, of the Department of Chemistry;
  • Professor David Dunger, of the Department of Paediatrics;
  • Mrs Silvia Hogg, of the Department of Archaeology;
  • Dr Christopher Penkett, of the Department of Haematology;
  • and Mr Steven Robinson, of the Department of Engineering.

A year of recovery, renewal and impact

Today I will be talking about a collegiate University emerging strong from the pandemic; a University determined to be a champion of free speech; a University that is thinking carefully about how and why it engages with the world; and a University committed to taking academic achievement to new heights.

But I’ll begin by looking back, briefly, at another extraordinary year.

If the academic cycle of 2019-20 was the year when we responded, collectively, to the shock of a global pandemic, the year 2020-21 was the time when we knuckled down and got on with the work of education and research in difficult and constantly changing circumstances.

Adapting to the new environment demanded resolve, resourcefulness and resilience – all of which Cambridge’s collegiate community displayed in abundance.

But our community did much more than adapt: it rolled up its sleeves and tackled its biggest crisis in living memory, demonstrating not only why universities matter, but why the University of Cambridge matters – to the city, to the country, and to the world.

The past 12 months have been tough for everyone – I am mindful, in particular, of those who have suffered bereavement, or have been ill themselves, or had to care for others.

I am mindful too of those who have struggled with their mental health, or had to endure isolation, and the added stresses – at home and at work – that the pandemic has produced.

But at these worst of times, we saw Cambridge at its best, as colleagues brought their expertise, skills and determination to bear on the global effort to beat COVID-19.

Over the past year, Cambridge researchers have been leading the national COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium (COG-UK), pioneering the use of large-scale sequencing to understand how the COVID virus is transmitted, and how it evolves.

This genomic analysis has, in turn, helped our researchers develop rapid point of care testing to reduce hospital transmission, and better understand vaccine responses.

In February this year, a new national consortium, co-led by the University of Cambridge, was formed to bring together mathematical modellers to produce faster, more rigorous predictions for the COVID-19 pandemic, and to advise UK government bodies.

We know what an important tool testing has been – and remains – in preventing transmission of disease.

The Testing Centre set up in spring of 2020 on the Biomedical Campus, became part of the United Kingdom’s national network of diagnostic labs, and processed over 3 million tests in the past year.

In autumn 2020, Cambridge scientists and clinicians rolled out an asymptomatic COVID-19 screening programme for our students.

The programme has helped protect the University and wider Cambridge community, it has made a key contribution to the evidence base for mass testing, and it has set the gold standard for mass testing in higher education settings.

I am grateful not only to the extraordinary scientists and clinicians whose work has been central to the development of our testing programmes, but to the Colleges that have been so intensely involved in its rollout, to the local public health authorities that have worked so closely with us – and, of course, to the students who have participated.

Meanwhile, Cambridge philosophers have contributed to the national debate on the use of face-coverings.

Cambridge psychologists have helped us understand the effect of COVID on expectant and new mothers, and have explained the societal benefits of vaccinations.

Cambridge economists have studied the financial response to the current pandemic, helping us to be better prepared when we have to deal with the next one.

Cambridge statisticians have helped us make sense of the reams of data, and to properly understand the real risks associated with infection and vaccination.

Cambridge colleagues at the Faculty of Education have helped chart a potential recovery path for pupils who have lost vital school time.

I am immensely proud of what Cambridge has achieved in its efforts to understand and combat the pandemic.


There has been so much more going on than COVID-related work.

Though it has often felt like the world was standing still, the University has been busier than ever.

And in many ways, the past academic year was a landmark year for Cambridge.

When we look back, I hope we remember the year 2020-21 not as the year when we learned to live with COVID, but as the year when Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman won the prestigious Millennium Technology Prize – and the equally prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Science – for their development of Next Generation DNA Sequencing.

The year that seven Cambridge scientists became Fellows of the Royal Society for their exceptional contributions to science; when five Cambridge academics became Fellows of the British Academy in recognition of their contribution to the humanities and social sciences; and one colleague became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

It was the year that the University of Cambridge won more European Research Council Awards than any other UK University.

It was the year when Dr Yusuf Hamied’s generous gift ensured that chemistry at Cambridge continues to be world-leading in both teaching and research.

It was the year that Stephen Hawking’s archive was secured by the University Library with thanks to the UK government.

Over 10,000 pages of his papers will now join those of Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Rutherford and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, among others, making the University Library the home of many of the most important scientific archives of all time.

It was the year when the University brought together its publishing and its assessment operations to create a single, world-leading organisation, helping teachers, learners and researchers, publishing content and setting examinations in over 170 countries.

Cambridge University Press and Assessment will help us satisfy the growing global appetite for digital learning that is joined up with our unique assessment capabilities – both supporting and underpinned by the University’s excellent teaching and research.

Let us remember 2020-21 as the year when our Men’s and Women’s crews pulled off a clean sweep at the 2021 Boat Race – held on the River Great Ouse, outside Ely, for only the second time in its history.

Let us remember it as the year when our Women’s Rugby team achieved its fourth successive win in the Rugby Varsity Match.

Let us remember it as the year when Cambridge students and Cambridge alumni, representing Great Britain and many other countries, pushed themselves in pursuit of Olympic and Paralympic glory.

Or the year when the University of Cambridge rose decisively in some of the world’s most reliable University rankings – not because chasing rankings results is a goal in itself, but because they are, broadly speaking, an indicator that we are getting things right.


In March, the University submitted its Research Excellence Framework submission for 2021 – the culmination of many months of incredibly hard work by colleagues in Departments, in Faculties, and in our Research Office.

Outcomes of the REF 2021 will be published in May 2022, and will provide a clear measure not only of the University’s research strengths, but of the impact of our research.

A lot is at stake – financially, and reputationally.

To all those who took part in the submission exercise, and to all Cambridge researchers, my huge thanks.

It has been a busy year for Cambridge Zero, the University’s flagship climate change initiative—and one of our top fundraising priorities.

Proving how important it is to have the right leadership, in the right place, at the right time, Cambridge Zero has been taking an active role in advising the government and shaping the international climate agenda ahead of COP26, the UN’s climate summit due to take place in Glasgow in a month’s time.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Zero has focused on building its core team, and on exploring new partnerships, while developing its central activities of research, education, public engagement, and investigating and promoting pathways to decarbonisation.

The University has been leading on conversations to draw up a new vision for the life sciences in Cambridge, bringing together the University, hospitals, government and the private sector, and confirming the standing of our Biomedical Campus as one of the great hubs of research, discovery and clinical treatment in the world.

We have been mustering the University’s wide-ranging expertise to create a Global Public Health Initiative – an urgent task, if ever there was one.

Even as we have sought to bolster our existing research capabilities, we have been busy launching new programmes for teaching and research, with announcements made over the past year for the creation of a Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, a Cambridge Initiative for Planetary Life and Science, a Global Humanities Initiative, and a Cambridge Centre for Musical Performance.

Later this month we will be launching the Janeway Institute for Economics.

We have appointed our first El-Erian Professor of Behavioural Economics and Policy, and the first Caroline Humphrey Chair in the Anthropology of Inner Asia – both of which were made possible by generous donations.


It has been said that for things to remain the same everything must change.

This has been true in our teaching provision, where we have had to implement very significant changes to ensure that we could protect and preserve, wherever possible, those aspects of a Cambridge education that we value most – including our fundamental commitment to in-person teaching.

In other areas, the pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate how we do things, and has led us to experiment – successfully – with blended forms of learning, and with new forms of assessment.

Reconsidering the University’s educational offer beyond its regular degrees, and embracing the possibilities of digital education, led to the launch in May of Cambridge Advance Online, which is already making specially designed Cambridge courses available online to professionals around the world – a bold and necessary step in an increasingly digital world.

Also seeking to widen the University’s educational offering are our new Apprenticeships Scheme, and the Apprenticeship Courses run by our Institute of Continuing Education – a cornerstone of our engagement with our local community, and with a key government policy.

Our commitment to widening access remains unstoppable.

We have passed – ahead of schedule – the halfway mark in our fundraising for the £500 million Student Support Initiative that I announced exactly three years ago, and which we formally launched in 2019.

This has been the result of close collaboration between the University and the Colleges, and a prime example of what can be achieved when we have a shared sense of purpose.

In January we announced the launch of collegiate Cambridge’s Foundation Year, offering talented students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage a route to university.

Free to students, thanks to a very generous gift from Christina and Peter Dawson among others, the one-year course will offer 50 students the chance to engage with a multi-disciplinary syllabus in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, preparing them for further study in these subjects.

The first intake will arrive in October 2022. They will be studying at one of 13 Cambridge colleges, and will benefit from the sense of community and academic stimulation that only the collegiate experience can offer.

We hope to bring in even more talented students through this route, to study an even wider range of subjects, in the future.

To help us do that, we recently launched the STEM SMART programme, which aims to support A-level students in state schools by offering enhanced learning and mentorship.

This new scheme will help build confidence in students who have experienced wider educational disadvantage, and encourage them to apply to study STEM subjects at top universities, including Cambridge.

We are stepping up our efforts to widen participation in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Over the summer we ran the pilot for the Social Sciences & Humanities Access to Research Experience – offering a group of 12 undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds a “boot camp” to help them prepare a credible application in a couple of years.

We have also enhanced our outreach efforts to attract and support prospective students who might not have thought of applying to Cambridge.

We have extended our “Get In Cambridge” campaign.

We have created new scholarships – including Mary Beard’s generous scholarships for Classics – and increased the number of existing ones – including our hugely successful Stormzy Scholarships for black students, now expanded to an additional 30 students over the next three years.

I am pleased to report that in 2020 we admitted a record number of British undergraduate students of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, who made up almost 30% of our intake.

We also took in the highest proportion of state school pupils in our history – over 70% of our undergraduates – and in doing so met all the access targets agreed with the Office for Students.

We are still gathering the full data for the latest admissions cycle, but we already have some indications that this number may be higher still.

I warmly welcome them all, and wish them the greatest success in the exciting years ahead.

Of course, while we are making every effort to attract fresh talent, we must continuously raise our game when it comes to supporting those students already with us.

From today, the collegiate University is rolling out an enhanced Bursary Scheme for undergraduates.

We have expanded the eligibility for the scheme, and over the next ten years will be providing more than £100 million in bursaries to support students experiencing financial pressures.

Made possible through the generosity of philanthropic donations from alumni and friends of the Colleges and the University, the scheme will help students with living costs and enable them to enjoy the benefits a Cambridge education offers, regardless of their personal financial circumstances.

We have created a Black Student Advisory Hub, and the new Alexander Crummell Fund is specifically aimed at supporting and encouraging black students.

The Fund was endowed by generous alumni, led by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Meanwhile, the University and the Colleges have worked together to co-create a comprehensive and ambitious Student Mental Health Strategy at a time when bolstering the mental health of our students is more important than ever.


We have been just as busy working with, and on behalf of, our staff.

Perhaps even more than by its rankings or its research – no matter how excellent – an institution like ours is defined by how it relates to its own people.

In a year like no other, it has been our staff – both our academic staff and our professional services staff – who have kept the cogs of the University wheels spinning – often under intense pressure.

This year we put in place a long overdue process to make professorial appointments more transparent and more efficient.

Regent House approved new titles for our academic appointments, bringing University practices in-step with best practice elsewhere, and in that way aiding the recruitment and retention of our academic staff.

The pressures of childcare have come to the fore during the pandemic, so I am glad to note that a new University nursery is now under construction.

This is wonderful news but, for some of us, bittersweet, since the colleague who for so long championed the building of this nursery, Prof Chris Abell, is no longer with us to see the project come to fruition.

We know that the pandemic’s effect on workloads across the University has been uneven – some colleagues have found themselves having to take on more work than ever, while in other areas activity slowed down, or even stopped.

So in March we launched a Skills Exchange programme, allowing University institutions in need of help to connect with, and recruit, people who have spare capacity, or are seeking to employ their expertise in other departments.

This is one of many examples of how an unprecedented external challenge has allowed us to become a better connected community.

I have said repeatedly that I want our University to be a place where everyone feels welcome and valued.

There remains much to be done in terms of diversity and inclusivity in our recruitment and promotions processes.

We are making progress, but there is room for improvement.

In May we launched the Change the Culture campaign, as part of our ongoing efforts to more effectively address discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace.

There were mistakes surrounding the way the campaign was presented.

These mistakes were swiftly rectified, and the campaign was withdrawn until it has been given further consideration.

Colleagues have raised concerns about whether the wider campaign might impinge on the University’s commitment to free speech.

To those colleagues I say: no, absolutely not.

I will never apologise for seeking to make our University a better environment in which to work and to study.

But freedom of speech – to which I will return in a moment – remains at the very core of what we do as a place of teaching, learning, and discovery.


The future of the University Superannuation Scheme remains contentious.

Cambridge has taken a clear position on the need to improve a pension scheme that is unsustainable.

We have been forceful about the need to reform the scheme’s governance and its approach to risk.

We remain committed to working with all parties to reach a sustainable solution to a persistent problem.


We simply cannot deliver on our mission – we cannot continue to have the impact we seek – if we do not have robust finances with transparent processes in place.

Despite enormous uncertainties, University finances have weathered the pandemic storm, and today remain in reasonable condition.

Crucially, we are in a position to deal with the backlog of promotions, and to fully fund last year’s and this year’s commitments to our colleagues’ professional advancement.

We continue to improve our financial processes.

Over the past year we received approval for the first phase of a new budget process.

This has been a painstaking effort that some have compared to turning around a super-tanker, but it is essential to putting the University on a secure financial footing, as well as to bringing its financial practices into step with modern accounting and budgeting practices.

In the same vein, we launched an Enhanced Financial Transparency initiative.

Under its new leadership, the Cambridge University Endowment Fund has now fully built out its team, and we are setting up a new governance process for the fund.

We have created a new Property Company that will provide advice on the most effective deployment of the University’s non-academic estate, including in North West Cambridge.

Fundraising campaign

I’m excited to report that collegiate Cambridge is nearing its fundraising goal of £2bn for the “Dear World... Yours, Cambridge” campaign ahead of schedule.

In the past year the University received more gifts from alumni than ever before, which is remarkable given these extraordinary times.

The Colleges and University are proud of all that’s been achieved and recognise the critical role philanthropy plays.

The campaign is ensuring that Cambridge ideas, insights and research continue to address the greatest challenges facing our planet.

Building on this momentum, we will continue to push to find ways to better support key University priorities such as Cambridge Zero and the Student Support Initiative.

Indeed, fundraising for our priorities is more urgent than ever, as the world recovers and reconnects.

I thank all of you who are playing a part in driving the success of the “Dear World... Yours, Cambridge” campaign.

Freedom of speech

Collegiate Cambridge has a centuries-long history of contributing to society by fostering discovery and innovation.

If it has been able to nurture radical thinkers and enterprising minds, it is because it has not shirked from asking questions – the big and sometimes difficult questions – or from seeking answers.

I was fully aware of Cambridge’s proud history of upholding freedom of speech when, in my inaugural address to the University, exactly four years ago, I asked how we might facilitate robust but respectful debate – even of issues that we find deeply uncomfortable – preserving what John Milton called ‘the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties’.

At this time last year there was intense debate over a proposed update to the University’s Freedom of Speech statement.

What followed – a Regent House Ballot on proposed amendments to the update – was a democratic exercise in which, as a member of the University, I take great pride.

The outcome of the ballot confirmed what I and an overwhelming majority of members of our community already feel:

That freedom of thought, of speech and of expression is – has always been, must always be – our fundamental guiding principle.

That it is our collective duty to foster an environment in which all of our staff and students feel able to question and test received wisdom, and to express new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, within the law, without fear of intolerance or discrimination.

That all speakers have a right to be heard when exercising their right to free speech within the law.

That we expect our staff, students and visitors to be tolerant of the opinions of others, even when they differ from their own.

It is our duty, as a collegiate community, to nurture a culture of discussion and debate, not a culture of cancelling and calling-out.

Too often, it can seem that life in modern universities – certainly in the UK and in much of the western world – is almost entirely shaped by a single, overarching world-view.

Some commentators talk of a “monoculture”.

And I am sorry to say that I do hear from some students and academics that they can feel marginalized and condescended to for their views.

No matter our own socio-political and ideological commitments, the University of Cambridge must remain a place where discussion, debate and diversity of views are valued – not uniformity of thought.

Civility and empathy can persist even amid robust disagreement.

The University has welcomed the British Government’s commitment to ensuring that free and lawful speech and debate are protected in higher education.

We have submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee considering a Freedom of Speech Bill in the House of Commons.

And we have specifically asked for additional clarity about how Universities and Student Unions can balance their existing statutory duties with the new freedom of speech duties created by the Bill, in instances where they may collide.

It is not surprising that our internal debate on freedom of speech captured the public’s attention beyond Cambridge.

Only a university that cultivates and stands up for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and academic freedom can gain the trust of its own community – and the trust of the public.

Only when we have that trust can we continue to have the impact on our societies that Cambridge has had over so many years, and will seek to have in years to come.

International engagement

Though most of us have found ourselves grounded over the past year, our international activity has not ceased – thanks, largely, to the wonders of remote video conferencing.

Our global community of more than 310,000 alumni remains our greatest set of ambassadors overseas, and in the past year they have connected with us in greater numbers than ever before, with record participation in virtual events such as the Alumni Festival.

Cambridge agreed earlier this year to chair the International Alliance of Research Universities, and I look forward to working closely with fellow leaders from many of the world’s best universities.

Next month Cambridge will be hosting the annual Presidents’ meeting of the League of European Research Universities – a unique chance to help set a new agenda for closer collaboration with our European partners.

Four years ago I stood in this very same place and declared my strong belief that addressing most of the big issues facing humanity requires that we work across the borders of nations and across the boundaries of academic disciplines.

No single country or discipline, I added, can have exclusive purchase on how we attack today’s fundamental problems – nor can a single institution.

My challenge to colleagues that day was this: How do we pursue full engagement with the world at a time when disengagement and fragmentation seem to be ascendant?

Disengagement and fragmentation are no less ascendant now than they were then.

We live in ugly, uneasy times.

And we must recognise that, even in the relatively brief period of the past four years, the tectonic plates of geopolitics have shifted significantly, requiring us to rethink how we engage with the world.

The most salient example – but by no means the only one – is the dramatic change in the way China relates to other countries, including the United Kingdom.

An increasingly complex world, staring down the barrel of staggering global challenges, requires more international engagement – not less.

But we cannot be naïve about how we engage with our partners – and we must be doing it for the right reasons.

The University’s approach to international engagement has always been academically driven and bottom-up, allowing individual collaborations to develop and flourish.

Our academic community will continue to drive our international partnerships, as colleagues identify opportunities to work with their peers around the world.

As an academic community, however, it is our job to look out for – and prevent – risks to the University in each of those partnerships – whether they are in the United Arab Emirates or in the United States.

Over the past few months, many colleagues have been involved in efforts to articulate fundamental principles to guide our international partnerships.

These principles are the bedrock on which we have traditionally built so many of our international collaborations, but in an increasingly complex environment, it is more important than ever that we make them explicit.

In any international partnership we must at all times:

  • Protect our people.
  • Defend academic freedom, uphold our core values, and sustain the highest professional standards.
  • Promote and support an academic culture that is aware of risk, and of the ways to minimise it.
  • Protect the open flow of ideas, data and other forms of intellectual property – including a duty to protect it against wrongful exploitation or interference.
  • And safeguard the University’s funding autonomy – including a duty to ensure the diversity and transparency of our funding sources.

You will be hearing more about these principles in the weeks ahead as we roll out specific guidance, and operational and training tools, that will help us apply those principles of international engagement.

In doing so, we will be better positioned to ensure that our international partnerships are both equitable and ethical, both equal and responsible.

We cannot ignore geopolitical realities, but nor should we be immobilised by them.

It is not only valid but important to ask, for instance: Why engage with partners in China?

And if we believe we must then it is our duty to ask: How do we do it with integrity?

Our new international engagement principles will allow us to pursue impactful research and education with partners across the world – while giving us the confidence that we can do it on our own terms, and in alignment with our values.

They will ensure that we approach all partnerships with open minds, but also with open eyes.

Closing remarks

Research published earlier this summer tells us that the University of Cambridge has historically produced, and continues to produce, more business founders than any other U.K. university.

I have repeatedly emphasised our University’s impact – locally, nationally, globally – and there, in that report, is a tangible, real-world example.

Cambridge’s response to the pandemic, which I outlined at the start of my address, is another.

So, too, are the University’s numerous actions on climate change – very close to home, I might mention Cambridge Zero’s support of the Cambridge City Council’s Net Zero Strategy.

Or the University’s efforts to engage with the local community through events like the Cambridge Festival, which in its revamped format attracted over 100,000 views.

The yearly Social Impact Awards, which I am always delighted to host, are a showcase of our students’ entrepreneurship, creativity and social commitment.

We continue to work with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to support sustainable improvements and upgrades to local infrastructure.

The Bennett Institute for Public Policy has launched an East Anglia Regional Productivity Forum, bringing together the academic, business and local government sectors to help shape research questions reflecting the needs of the region.

Impact is not just a buzzword, or an aspiration – it is a concrete outcome, and Cambridge has it in spades.

It is about the technologies we create, and the discoveries we make.

It is about the ideas we develop, and the shared cultural legacies we interpret and pass on.

It is about making a difference in the world – even when that difference is not immediate.

It is at the heart of the story we need to be telling about our University.

It is what we will continue to pursue as we set out on our journey of renewal and recovery.

Dear friends –

We are not yet out of the pandemic woods.

But I am modestly optimistic for the academic year ahead – because we have all learned so much from the year that has just passed.

My sincerest wish – and that of so many of us here – is that we can sensibly return to as much in-person teaching and in-person work as conditions permit.

That is what we are planning for – though contingencies are in place in case we cannot.

And, if circumstances allow, let us then turn all our energies to what we do best – creating, curating and communicating knowledge.

And let us then get back, in full, to what we want Cambridge to be known for:

For nurturing minds and hearts, and for producing the discoveries and the ideas that will be passed down to future generations, helping to make the world better for all.


Last week I announced to the University Council, and to the University community, my intention of ending my tenure as Vice-Chancellor in September 2022.

This is the last time I address the University community from Senate House, as Vice-Chancellor, at the beginning of the academic year.

But 12 months is a long time in the life of a university – and there remains much to be done.

The words of American poet Robert Frost come to mind:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

My commitment to all of you today – to students, to colleagues, to alumni in the UK and around the world – is that over the next 12 months I will be working hard to advance what I set out to do four years ago.

With your support, Cambridge will continue to be a beacon for our city, for this country, and for the world.

Thank you.