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One Year as Vice-Chancellor

By Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester

The world has changed more than we could have imagined in a year—the global pandemic has brought with it the pain of loss and suffering. Along with it, we have seen the spirit of human endeavour to come together to fight as one to protect humanity.

In my first year at the University of Leicester I have been proud to witness at first hand this strength of purpose as our scientists led major research studies, including the UK’s largest clinical trial that resulted in the first proven treatment for Covid-19. Our researchers were the first to highlight the adverse impact of Covid-19 on minority ethnic groups.

We came together as one in a city which has been under continuous control measures longer than any other in the UK—we worked with Leicester City Council and joined their Local Resilience Forum. Staff and students have volunteered to help with testing, we have provided PPE and specialist equipment, provided use of our buildings, car parks and accommodation. And we worked with partners in Together in Hope to combat prejudice and hatred arising during the pandemic.

I am proud of the University’s commitment to the City, the County and Rutland—we owe our origins to our region and as we mark our Centenary in 2021 we will reflect on our unique origins as a University founded in memory of sacrifices made in the First World War in order to build for a better future.

It is a legacy that is as true today as it ever was and I am committed to ensuring education transforms lives. I have pledged to improve access and achieve equality for those who work and study here. I am determined to ensure that our staff reflects the demographic of the city in which we are located so that local people can aspire to be a part of this University and for local students to have the opportunity to study here.

Education transformed my life and I have an enormous sense of obligation to bring its benefits to others. As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Like many who have contributed to the success of Leicester, I am an immigrant—I grew up in Sri Lanka and have made my home in the UK. I am touched by the welcome so many people have given me in this great city. It is a fantastic place and I am so proud to be a part of it and for the University to be a part of its success. We will continue to forge partnerships in the city, county and Rutland to build for the future and ensure we are the University for Leicester, and not simply the University of Leicester.