The Real Value of University | Christopher Winter
Newcastle Upon Tyne was original founded by the Romans. They called it ‘Pons Aelius’ or ‘Hadrians Bridge’ to you and me. Over the next eighteen hundred years, Newcastle would grow and build and expand to become the beating heart of the North East of England, and the place we have all had the pleasure of calling home for the last few years.
Many of you here today will have come to Newcastle University, not just for the education, but also for the experience. This fantastic shining city on the Tyne river is famous for its culture and its nightlife. I came to Newcastle University for of one simple reason: it reminded me of home. It was just far away enough that I could feel independent, but close enough that I could hit the motorway and be home in a few hours – just in case of an emergency. I had never planned on making a mad impromptu dash back to East Yorkshire… but unfortunately the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. It is safe to say that our time at university has been far from normal, and many of us did not spend how we intended to.
We have all struggled and fought through the Coronavirus and lockdown to be here today. We all remember the confusion and panic of quickly rushing home and not knowing what would come next. Half of our entire time at university was spent at home, away from this wonderful place.
After making it through a global pandemic, it is beyond question that we have all demonstrated considerable drive and passion and commitment to get where we are today.
I do fear, however, that this is the only way in which we will be remembered. I fear that we will be categorised as the ‘Covid Generation’. I fear that we will be forever defined as that group of students who were shuffled away back to their homes, and made to log in to zoom meetings every day. I fear this because it overshadows everything that we have done, and everything that we will do, and the only way we can change that, is by making our mark on history as a generation capable of more than that.
It is important to remember that a University degree does not grant you magic powers. We might like to think that it does, but no piece of paper and no letters after your name make you capable of changing the world.
So what does? I think that it is our drive, our passion, and our commitment that will see us through. We have stayed true to ourselves and our ambitions during one of the worst times our society has known in the 21st century. I am sure that if we carry on with the same sincerity and zeal that we all showed during the pandemic, nothing will stand in our way afterwards.
Our degrees open up the gateway to our future successes, and when you have made it, and when you are successful, and when you reach your dreams… take a moment to think back to where it all started. Take a pause and remember your time at Newcastle University. The things you did here, the friends you made here, and the fun that you had here. I hope that you will all be able to look back, remember the memories, and smile. That is certainly what I will be doing.