Louise Richardson: First-ever female Oxford vice-chancellor appeals to colleagues to ensure students are ‘educated to think critically and act ethically’

Oxford's students will also 'articulate our obligation to the vulnerable and poor'

The first-ever female vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford has urged her new colleagues to ensure students are “educated to think critically and act ethically” as these are the people who will “prevent the next financial crisis” and “articulate our obligation to the vulnerable and poor.”

Delivering her admission speech at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on Tuesday, Professor Louise Richardson - who is the first female to take up the position in the institution’s 800-year history - said: “[These are the people] who will help us to grapple with the fundamental questions prompted by the accelerating pace of technological change, as we confront profound ethical choices about the prolongation and even replication of life.”

She also added how it is Oxford’s students who will, one day, force the public to confront the costs being imposed on the next generation through wasteful use of the Earth’s resources, and will also “articulate our obligation to the victims of war, oppression and disease, wherever they live.”

Addressing the issue of the threat to freedom of speech on Britain’s campuses, Professor Richardson seemed to have more questions than solutions as she asked Congregation, the university’s supreme governing body: “How do we ensure they appreciate the value of engaging with ideas they find objectionable, trying through reason to change another’s mind, while always being open to changing their own? How do we ensure our students understand the true nature of freedom of inquiry and expression?”

As well as this, the academic - who is also an expert in the field of terrorism and security studies - hit out at the growing control within the UK’s higher education system, which is, “paradoxically enough, designed to ensure value for money.” She said: “Less necessary is the ever increasing cost of compliance with ever more bureaucratic, ever more intrusive, and ever less useful regulation. [This] diverts resources - both financial and intellectual - from the central tasks of research and teaching.”

Oxford University's plea to Taylor Swift

Appealing to her new colleagues to come together and “make the most of the time we have here in this privileged, magical, extraordinary place,” Professor Richardson concluded: “Let’s keep our eyes firmly fixed on the future, without forgetting the traditions that bind us to our forebears and the values and interests that unite us to one another.

Comments