President, Senior Vice Principal, Director, Professor Drew, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen….Thank you, it is a great honour, as well as a great pleasure, to be invited to join you on this important day.
May I start by offering my congratulations to Glasgow School of Art for its inaugural Degree Show (1 – 8 July) held here at Temasek Polytechnic, showcasing final year projects from the first cohort of graduating students in Communication Design and Interior Design.
And, of course, my warmest congratulations to all of you who are graduating today for your dedication to achieving your educational goals.
Although my own graduation ceremony is an increasingly distant memory I do recall a strong sense of pride and accomplishment that I have no doubt is shared by all of you and your family and friends today, as well as a bit of relief that it is all over.
There were many reasons I was delighted to be invited along today and to have the chance to say a few words.
Not least was the chance to show my and Her Majesty’s Government’s support for the Glasgow School of Arts in the aftermath of the awful fire in the Mackintosh building back on 23 May.
Firefighters managed to save 90% of the building and 70% of its contents and the process of renewal has already begun. The school has set up a Phoenix Bursary scheme to help students affected by the blaze to recreate lost work.
The scheme attracted a £750,000 contribution from the Scottish government, which has also pledged £5m in match funding towards the restoration costs. The UK government has also said it will make a substantial contribution once the restoration costs are known.
Some works can never be replaced but that is why those of you sitting here are so important because it is you, and others studying at the School who will take on its legacy.
You will also take on its ethos, of creativity, independence, social and environmental responsibility, tradition and innovation.
For the Glasgow School of Art that ethos is what has ensured, since its foundation in 1845, that it remains true to its purpose, to contribute to a better world through creative education and research.
But, and I hope that you won’t mind me saying this, while the School is clearly a beacon of excellence in this regard, these are attributes and attitudes that lie at the heart of the UK education sector as a whole.
And when it comes to the rest of my role as British High Commissioner in Singapore I and all of my colleagues place the highest priority on doing all we can to find ways to exploit and enhance Britain’s strengths in innovation, creativity and education.
One way in which we do this is through the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
This covers 11 sectors, one of which is International Education.
Developed in partnership with the education sector, the Government’s International Education Strategy will ensure British academic institutions and education businesses continue to stay ahead in the global education market.
We aim to secure an extra £3 billion worth of contracts for the UK’s education providers overseas, and attract almost 100,000 extra overseas university students by 2018.
Higher education supports a knowledge economy and is increasingly recognised as vital to a nation’s global competitiveness. It is the ultimate enabler for extending our global reach and influence.
We aim to position the UK as an international leader in higher education by working to enhance learning, teaching, research and knowledge transfer, and to increase the international competitiveness of the UK and partner countries.
Because, of course, it’s not just about getting people to come and study in the UK. Many overseas students want to access good quality UK qualifications in their own countries; partnerships and collaborations make such transnational education a realistic aspiration.
The UK has a number of truly international brands, many of them with a long tradition behind them. Their qualifications are valued by businesses and governments for the depth and breadth of skills they teach…
…and they are valued by students because they open up a wide range of international career opportunities.
The UK is currently the leading provider of transnational education (TNE) programmes in Singapore. There are over 100 UK courses on offer, including pre-university courses, undergraduate, postgraduate and professional qualifications.
According to the British Council, there are over 50,000 students from many nationalities taking courses for UK qualifications offered here by Singaporean institutions including, of course, the SINGAPORE Institute of Technology and Temasek Polytechnic.
Singapore continues to hold more than 10% of the global market share for such courses, second only to Malaysia in the world which, to state the obvious, has a somewhat larger population.
Through transnational education, thousands of Singaporeans have benefitted from a UK qualification without leaving home. That builds the bonds of future partnerships for prosperity.
And this, of course, is exactly what you have all been doing as you study courses offered by the Glasgow School of Art here in Singapore.
Now if you will permit me a little segue from the world of education to the world of sport it would be very odd for me to stand before a famous Glasgow institution without mentioning an extremely important event that takes place there in a few weeks.
And that is, of course, the Commonwealth Games…
This is not just a fabulous sporting occasion, with 71 nations and territories competing against each other, it’s a chance for Glasgow and Scotland to show itself off to the world.
It’s also a chance for the Commonwealth to come together. This unique grouping is home to 1/3 of the world’s people, 50% of whom are under the age of 25.
It may be a product of the past, but its potential to be a force for the future is only limited by our ambition to make it work for us.
On Monday at my residence we will be sending off the Singapore team to the games in style, and I am delighted that there will be a strong Glasgow School of Art contribution to that with some pieces by Paul Hume on display, and my thanks to him for helping to make it a special occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with one final thought on what singles out academic institutions like the Glasgow School of Art from the rest and which, as I said earlier, makes the UK education system as a whole such a valuable asset for the UK.
For me it comes back to innovation. It’s about a relentless focus on the future and how we are going to meet the challenges ahead.
It’s about being proud of where we have come from, celebrating our successes and achievements, but never thinking for a minute that this means that the journey is complete and that we can relax our efforts and lower our ambitions.
And it’s about government and organisations like the Glasgow School of Art working together, in partnership, to meet your goals and stay at the top of your game.
Because those you are educating now, especially here in Singapore, will be the basis of our broader prosperity partnerships going forward.
And that is why it has been a privilege, as well as an honour and a pleasure, to be invited to join you today.
Thank you very much.