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Graduation Address: Meeting the Creative Challenge

28 June 2010

“What distinguishes University of Ulster students is their ability to think and act creatively.”

That was the message from the Vice-Chancellor to students and their families as the University’s 2010 summer graduation series got under way at the Coleraine campus this morning.

In a wide-ranging address to graduates from the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, the Vice-Chancellor placed emphasis on the resilience and ability to innovate that new graduates brought to society.

At the same time, he said, they also faced a challenging economic environment.

“The graduation class of 2010 face many greater challenges than did my generation,” said Professor Barnett.

“You will face challenges that my generation never had to face. However, as a graduate of this university, we’ve left you that all important inheritance: the ability to think creatively – and I encourage you to have the confidence to put that creativity into practice.”

Turning to the international environment, the Vice-Chancellor spoke of his recent visit to China, which had both impressed and frightened him with the scale of its commitment to development:

“China impressed me because I saw immense investment in the country’s economic future. There was great investment in the economic and physical infrastructure, and still greater investment in education, especially investment in universities. I visited cities that I’d visited just five years previously and now hardly recognised given the scale of the investment. And I visited universities that I’d visited five years previously and didn’t recognise at all such was the scale of the investment. And, quite simply, their facilities are the most impressive that I’ve seen anywhere.

"China frightened me because China is still waking up and developing its economic infrastructure. As they develop further into the economic powerhouse that they will undeniably become, it sometimes makes me wonder how we in the west are going to compete.”

Nevertheless, Professor Barnett said he was confident for the future of the graduates receiving their degrees and certificates today:

“I gain renewed confidence in our future, however, at graduations such as this, because our future lies in creative thinkers such as today’s graduation class. Creative thinkers who, by definition, have the ability to do things differently. But as I said, that in itself is not enough.

“We must have creative thinkers who have confidence to put that creative thinking into practice and above all to take risks.”

Turning to the economic environment into which the new graduates were emerging, the Vice-Chancellor called on government to ensure that adequate support structures were in place to enable our talented young people to seize the opportunities the world offered:

“In these tough economic times we also need a government that both recognises that our future lies in nurturing our creative talent and supports those who take the risks on our behalf,” he said.