Outgoing Chancellor Lord Willetts commends University of Leicester welcome

The Rt Hon Lord Willetts, left, with President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah.

The University of Leicester’s outgoing Chancellor The Rt Hon Lord Willetts FRS has commended its long-held reputation of being welcome to all, as he passes the baton to his successor.

He made the comments as he finishes his term as the University’s seventh Chancellor, a role he has held since 2018. The role of Chancellor is largely ceremonial, acting as an advocate for the University both nationally and internationally, presiding at major ceremonies – including graduation – and serving as Chair of the annual meeting of the University’s Court.

He will be succeeded by space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, who takes on the role from 1 March 2023.

David Willetts is Former Minister for Universities and Science and was MP for Havant from 1992 to 2015. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws by the University in 2016 for his distinguished record in Parliament, for his ad

vocacy on behalf of Britain’s universities, for his engagement with the university sector, and for his continuing work on behalf of all of us.

Reflecting on his time as Chancellor of the University of Leicester, which coincided with its centenary celebrations, Lord Willetts singled out a speech by Sir David Attenborough as his fondest memory. 

Lord Willetts said: “He gave a wonderful speech about his childhood in what is now the University, and how his family had given refuge to two Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. 

“It was a reminder and brought to life everything that Leicester stands for: welcoming people from so many different backgrounds and races.“I think Leicester is now in, and I claim no credit for this, a very strong position and it’s growing. It’s getting more students and flourishing. It has some exciting new capital investment on board. I think that will stand it in very good stead.”

During his time at Leicester, Lord Willetts worked closely on supporting the development of Space Park Leicester. He had also previously opened a space research facility, the Michael Atiyah Annexe, in the School of Physics and Astronomy when a Minister.Lord Willetts said: “I’ve been closely involved on the space side and Space Park Leicester. I’m very pleased to have seen Space Park grow and thrive. It plays a key role in reminding people in Government of the value of what we do and the importance of supporting it.”

Paying tribute to Lord Willetts, President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah said: “Lord Willetts has been a great champion for Leicester and an influential leader whose wisdom and insights have been of huge benefit.

“His term of office encompassed our centenary, as well as the tumultuous period of a global pandemic, and his perspective has played a part in times of celebration as well as difficult times. We value his contribution and owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Leicester is fortunate to retain links with him as he shapes the prosperity of the national space economy as Chair of the UK Space Agency and we wish him well for the future.” 

Since standing down as an MP, Lord Willets has been appointed as a visiting professor at King’s College London, a visiting professor at the Cass Business School, a board member of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. He is also executive chair of the Resolution Foundation and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.

He is married with two children and has written a number of books, pamphlets and essays, usually on economic and social policy, including The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took their Children’s Future – and why they Should Give it Back and A University Education.

Award-winning space scientist, broadcaster and author, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, will join the University of Leicester as its new Chancellor on 1 March. Maggie is best known for her work on The Sky at Night, which she has presented since 2014.