Failure to invest in higher education is a failure to invest in all that is good in our society, the Chancellor of the University of Ulster told graduates at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast today.
In his inaugural graduation speech to over 1000 graduates and their families and friends, Chancellor James Nesbitt delivered an incisive overview of the challenges facing higher education.
“At a time when Northern Ireland is looking to forge a bright economic future, the quality of the University of Ulster’s research and innovation, its investment in science, engineering, technology and maths, its provision of professionally accredited degree courses and its commitment to widening access to higher education is inspiring," he said.
“Government, both at Stormont and Westminster must know – and if it does not know, must be told – by you, by me, by our staff and students, and by our alumni, that a failure to invest in higher education is a failure to invest in all that is good in our society.
“If higher education needs a champion in these times, let us all be that champion.”
The Chancellor’s remarks were echoed by Feargal Sharkey, the former Undertones singer, who received an honorary degree at the ceremony.
Dr Sharkey, who now heads music industry body UK Music called on Government to recognise that investment in the creative industries was vitally important for the future vitality of our society. Dr Sharkey told the graduating students:
“Music is something I care about. It has given me an extraordinary thing in life that I passionately love.
“In the United Kingdom the creative industries contribute more to our Gross Domestic Product than any other country in the world. Being creative is more important to the UK’s economy than the pensions industry or the insurance industry. The creative industries are just as significant, just as vital to all of our lives as any other part of our economy and society.
“It is essential that we – and Government – furnish the same level of support and encouragement to young people in the creative industries as we give to those entering any other industry. It is an investment in our future, and will become increasingly significant.”