The Principal's Charge To The Graduates

May I welcome you all, and particularly those visiting this wonderful setting for the first time, to this special day for our graduates.

There are of course all sorts of special days in life ヨ but I would suggest this is certainly up there with the best. Graduation marks a culmination of all the effort, the hard slog and late nights. Those of us who have experienced it, here or elsewhere, never fail to feel a certain pride, nostalgia, a shiver down the spine as the music sounds and the procession starts.

What you have achieved is excellent. So it's only right that we ヨ that's all your family and friends, my University colleagues here today - should take just a moment to congratulate all of you one more time.

But perhaps we should also say that you are not the only ones to have had stressful moments as you worked towards this day. I suspect if I asked the folk gathered around the galleries and back of the hall they would tell me that they are just as relieved and delighted to get to this day as you are. They have been your constant supporters, they have helped and encouraged you and you owe a lot to them. Why don't you take this opportunity to thank them.

This has not been the easiest run up to the graduation season. There was a time, not that long ago, when it was uncertain whether or not examinations would take place, marking would happen and results would be to hand in time for a day such as this to take place. It can't have been easy for you to keep your head down and your mind focussed amidst the uncertainty. I am sorry that you had to go through this worrying time. But we have put that behind us remarkably quickly.

And for this reason I want to pay tribute to the way in which academic and administrative colleagues in this University have worked hard and with dedication to bring us to this point. Whatever the difficulties and stresses of the last few months ヨ for all of us - it demonstrates the underlying commitment and professionalism of this University community, in particular the fundamental commitment of staff to their students. I want to acknowledge this outcome and thank my colleagues for it.

I also want to give an assurance to you, and to send the world out there a clear message: we have cut no corners in our examinations and assessments. As a result, a University of Glasgow degree obtained in 2006, that's your degree, is indisputably of the same high standard of quality as ever.

Maintaining, and developing the quality of what we do year in year out is vital. This year has been an exciting one for the University as we launched our strategic plan: Building on Excellence. It's a carefully chosen title. It attempts to capture the sense in which we are seeking to build on our past and present strengths to create a stronger future. We are not resting on excellence; we're building on it. The strategy is all about achieving international excellence in our teaching and research; it's about becoming more international in our student body and our academic partnerships; it's about putting the University on a sustainable footing; and it is about reaching out to the City, to Scotland and to the world with all the capacity for good that an academic community such as this has to offer. And this is not just words ヨ the building on excellence is happening tangibly now in all our Faculties.

You are about to leave this community with a postgraduate or BSc/MSci degree. It is a good degree, a quality product. Having achieved it you have every reason to be proud.

A degree of course gives you specific knowledge. Some of you for example will be able to discuss Taxonomy in Modern Aquatic Bioscience or guide us through the central facts of Molecular and Cellular Parasitology in a way and with an authority you would not have possessed four or five years ago. Others of you again could express informed views on Peripheral Neuropharmacology, Viruses and the Immune system or introduce us to the complexities of Marine Ecosystems. I could go on.

But studying for a degree in a University like this equips you with much more. Through your course work, whether independent study or group work, you will have learnt analytical skills, critical evaluation, the ability to work to deadlines, creativity, logical thinking, team-working, selfヨorganisation, self-motivation, communication skills. Crucially, particularly in today's world, you will have built up your ability to embrace difference, to respect it as something to be understood, not feared. You will have developed a confidence to take things on, the critical and analytical skills and aptitudes that will assist you in tackling and interacting with the world in all its complexity and challenge, the readiness to share your abilities, to seek solutions. These features in addition to the knowledge you have acquired speak of the excellence we aim for.

This address is normally referred to as the charge to graduates. In honouring this, let me now end with not one, but three charges for you.

Firstly, as you leave this place to build on what it has given you, I hope that this will not be the end of your relationship with the University. It is an exciting time to be an alumnus of Glasgow. As a graduate, you are now part of a 100,000 strong global alumni community. Wherever your travels take you, Beijing, Boston, Calcutta, Cyprus, Chicago, London, New York, Sydney or Tokyo to name just a few, you will never be far from another GU alumnus.

We are always looking to maintain our links and this year we are launching a new web service called GU World. This is a very promising project that will provide a variety of online interactive services including: email forwarding to help you stay in touch with your friends, message boards, online updates, and personalised pages which can help to keep you informed of relevant developments in your chosen field. Look out for more information and progress reports in Avenue.

Your interest and involvement in the life of the University is a source of great encouragement to those of us who have the responsibility of maintaining and advancing the reputation and standing of the University at home and overseas. Graduates such as you can help strengthen our worldwide reputation as you progress in your careers. You are ambassadors of our great institution and through our alumni network you will help build that sense of belonging and community that is vital if we are to spread the good name of our University.

Secondly, as I have referred to the University's new strategy entitled 'Building on Excellence', I can do no better than to urge you to take this motto with you and make it your own. This is the end of one chapter in your life, you have achieved something excellent. But don't stop here. Exciting opportunities beckon. Move on, out into the world using the knowledge you have gained, deploying those broad abilities that I have spoken of, ever seeking to build on whatever you achieve and make a difference! In doing so you will be honouring this great place, your University: you will be building on excellence.

And, thirdly, and in conclusion, it only remains to me to congratulate you once again and to wish you success and happiness in your future lives and careers.

Ray McHugh (

First published: 4 July 2006

<< July