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Vice-President of the European Commission returns to Leicester to receive honorary degree

A former student who rose to become Prime Minister of Finland and Vice-President of the European Commission has recalled his happy time at Leicester as an Erasmus student as he returned to the campus to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Mr Katainen is a current Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. He joined the Commission in July 2014, as then Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the euro.

During his visit to Leicester, Mr Katainen toured the University’s state-of-the-art £42 million Centre for Medicine which is currently under construction. The Centre for Medicine is the largest investment in medical teaching and research by a UK University in the last decade. This comes at a time where there is a clear need to fight the growing threat of chronic diseases and improve patient safety and care. The facility will allow increased collaboration between clinicians and leading academics to address these challenges and transform the training of tomorrow's doctors.

A £10 million fundraising appeal for philanthropic support is currently underway to ensure that the building is completed and equipped to the highest standard.

The European Investment Bank and Barclays plc have helped finance the development of the building, as well as other campus projects and improvements.

Mr Katainen also met with some postgraduate students working on an EU funded innovation project, the Innovation Research Support Accelerator (IRSA).   IRSA helps small businesses collaborate on R&D with the University of Leicester to accelerate the development and exploitation of new products, services, technologies, processes and markets cross the East Midlands.

You can view a gallery of photos from Mr Katainen's visit to the Centre for Medicine and meeting students in IRSA below:


Mr Katainen said: “The new Centre for Medicine is really impressive- it is a piece of art in the sense that there is a lot of new technology and it is so energy efficient. It demonstrates what innovation is all about – not just in terms of technology but in terms of design, architecture and build.

“It is wonderful to be back here at the University of Leicester.  The time I spent here changed my life entirely– I would not be where I am today had it not been for the time at Leicester. We concentrated on European politics and political history and this has had an enormous impact on my choices later.

“It is a big honour and privilege to get this honorary degree.  My message to students is to go abroad- at least for a year.  Erasmus gives you a chance to widen your perspective and creates opportunities.”

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