She also remembered her own time at the university where she earned an LLM in public international law at the London School of Economics. Describing the experience as 'life-altering', Ms McDougall said it was 'an opportunity to spend meaningful time with, to study under and collaborate with professors, people in this exciting intellectual community who were on the front lines of struggling for the liberation of their countries in southern Africa; for self-determination; and for the end of colonialism. These were big ideas and at that time there was nothing more exciting to me than to be part of ideas that would change the world. Studying here at the University of London gave me that opportunity.'
In the case of the University of Oxford we have approximately 22,000 students: 11,500 undergraduates and 10,500 graduates. 41% of our students are citizens of foreign countries. Overseas students make up 63% of the graduate student population and 19% of the undergraduate population. Our students come from over 140 countries and territories and China supplies the second highest number of students, with just over 1,000 of our students coming from China. A similar picture emerges when I turn to staff numbers. The University employs approximately 12,000 employees. 65% of them are from the UK, 17% from the European Union and 14% from other countries in the world. Almost one third of our employees were not born in the UK, and that number is higher if it is confined to academic (rather than administrative) posts. This is a world which the Registrar of the University of Oxford in 1896 could not have imagined. His world was one in which students were mainly undergraduates, were born and would spend most of their lives in the United Kingdom and most of them were humanities students rather than students working in the sciences.
The honour acknowledges her tireless championing of human rights for which she has received numerous accolades, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (‘genius grant’) for her innovative and highly effective work on behalf of international human rights.
I am honoured to be invited to participate in this Graduation Ceremony. As we are in the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, this is an occasion of historic significance. I am delighted to be here at this meaningful event.
In 2015, the Government of South Africa recognised her extraordinary contributions to ending apartheid by awarding her the Order of the Companions of O.R.Tambo, its national medal of honour for non-citizens. These many remarkable achievements are celebrated in the University of London’s Leading Women campaign.
First, the great universities of the world will become more international, not less. And the direction of travel will not be principally from the East to the West; it will be in both directions as Chinese universities climb their way up the international league tables. Greater numbers of students from the UK and Europe will want to study here in the future. The same will be true of academics. We may not in future need the MOUs that are currently a feature of the higher education landscape. We will not need them because our campuses will themselves be international, consisting of students and academics from many different parts of the world.
By the time the graduating students of today reach the prime of their working lives in say 20 to 30 years’ time, we will be marching towards the middle of thiscentury. What will the world be like then? What does the future hold? Looking in the future, we can only be certain of one thing. The pace of change in all fields is likely to accelerate. The only certainty is uncertainty and the only security is the ability to cope with insecurity. I wish to offer our graduates a few thoughts which may provide them with guidance in meeting the exciting challenges ahead.
Seventy eight School graduands were awarded postgraduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences at the ceremony in Senate House, of which 25 were awarded Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
For 14 years he was executive director of Global Rights, which helped human rights advocates in ten countries to develop their strategies for justice. Prior to that she played a special role in securing the release of thousands of political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia, and was appointed to the electoral commission that ran South Africa’s first democratic elections, which ended apartheid and installed Nelson Mandela as president.
As I said, anniversary celebrations are an opportunity to meet with old friends. In my case this is my fourth visit to this University. I first came here in May 2013 to speak at a conference on international commercial law organised by the School of Law and the Silk Road Institute for International and Comparative Law. The conference was organised by the Dean of the Law School, Professor Shan, and my former doctoral student Professor Qiao Liu. Since that first visit I have returned to Xi’an on an annual basis and enjoyed the hospitality which this University has generously provided. It has been a particular pleasure to work with Dean Shan, his colleagues and to teach and work with graduate students in the Law School, some of whom are working under the supervision of Professor Liu. I have attended, and spoken at, a university graduation here which was an event on a scale much bigger than anything we could organise in Oxford. I have never seen so many happy students receive their degree, have their photographs taken with their Dean and all organised so efficiently. I have also been able to meet with President Wang and it was a particular pleasure for me to be able to welcome him, together with some of his senior colleagues, to Oxford earlier this year and to show him around parts of our University. He has been a good friend and is an inspiring and visionary leader.
Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and distinguished scholar in residence at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, Fordham University School of Law, was awarded a Doctor of Laws honoris causa at the School of Advanced Study’s graduation ceremony on 7 December.
Those somewhat idyllic times are long past. The last half century has witnessed the most momentous changes in the world. We have seen the most amazing advances in science, technology and in every field of human endeavor. As a striking example, it has been pointed out that there is today more computer power in a Ford family car than there was in Apollo II when Neil Armstrong took it to the Moon in 1969. All around the globe, there have been sea changes in the geopolitical landscape. Above all, our Motherland, China, has emerged as a modern and strong nation.
'You are graduating from one of the finest institutions in the world. And this world you are inheriting is one of incomparable wealth, resources and technological know-how. That presents you with vast opportunities and, of course, also some challenges and responsibilities. These are difficult times for justice and human rights, with battles over natural and other resources, rising inequality, increasing movement of people within and across borders, ongoing crises and armed conflicts, and unlawful actions by governments in the name of preserving public order and national security.
Before I talk about some of these issues, I should, perhaps, introduce myself. I am Professor Ewan McKendrick, a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford and the Registrar of the University. The title Registrar is one that does not translate very easily but, if I had to summarise my role, I would say that I am the senior administrative officer of the University. I report directly to our Vice-Chancellor (our President) and am her principal adviser on strategic policy and am responsible to her for the management and administration of the University. As someone who is responsible for university administration, I know how much work has to be put into an event of this nature and and on behalf of your guests I would like to thank those responsible for organising these anniversary celebrations for the hospitality which has been extended to us during our stay here in this wonderful city.
Of course, no institution can rest on its laurels. Looking ahead, I am sure that this Law School will continue to strive for excellence in its teaching and research and that it will go from strength to strength. Lawyers have a crucial role to play in upholding the rule of law and lawyers are what law schools make them. That is why this Law School will continue to play such a significant role in maintaining the rule of law in our society. I would like to wish the School every success in its important endeavours.
Gay McDougall receives honorary degree from School of Advanced Study
But where do we go from here? What does the future hold for great universities such as this University? The history of the last 120 years teaches us that we are unlikely to be able to predict what will happen over the next 120 years and so it might be said to be foolish to attempt to predict the future. But today I am willing to play the role of the fool and attempt to look into the future and make some general predictions.
As graduates of one of the finest and most prestigious schools in the world, you can – in whatever profession you practice – play a pivotal role in reshaping the future into one in which hunger, extreme poverty and racism are distant memories. A future in which every person can fulfil their dreams and contribute to society on an equal basis. I want to challenge you to be that solution; to take responsibility for safeguarding the human rights that we must cherish. We are waiting for you. And, you are going to have a very exciting future.
Third, Xi’an Jiaotong University has a large, high-quality academic medical enterprise, with renowned teaching hospitals. Through the work of physician faculty members the entire region receives medical care at the forefront of academic medicine. Through its education programs, the university is preparing the next generation of physicians who will be serving others. Through its programs of medical research, the university is contributing to advancing human health for everyone everywhere.
Thirdly, it is most important to develop the strength of character, the inner strength, to overcome adversity. Life’s journey is a long distance one. As you progress through it, there will be many ups and downs. Sometimes, the sun will shine on you. But at other times, life can be stormy. Sometimes, the sailing will be plain. At other times, the territory will be rugged. It is important always to move on, with the determination to overcome adversity. “For sweet are the uses of adversity” as Shakespeare pointed out. You must face life’s challenges with great vigor and courage.
Watch Gay McDougall talk about the importance of studying human rights:
It is an enormous privilege for me to be asked to speak today on behalf of your guests from Europe on the occasion of the 120th anniversary celebrations of this distinguished University. Anniversaries of this kind provide us with the opportunity to meet old friends, examine our history, consider the present and contemplate the future.
The body of alumni is a most important stakeholder of any Law School and can provide it with invaluable support. You have received much from this School and I trust you will do your part to contribute to the development of your Alma Mater in future years.
Ms McDougall, who has been a leader on human rights within the United Nations for more than three decades and was the first UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, said she was ‘thrilled to receive this honour’ from the School, a federation member of the University of London. In her acceptance speech she told the 78 graduating students that she can’t help feeling a little envious at what lies ahead for them.
In closing I would like to offer a personal reflection. My link to this University was created by one of my former doctoral students, Professor Qiao Liu. He came to Oxford more than 10 years ago, first to study on a postgraduate masters programme and then to take his doctorate. I was then his supervisor. Today we are colleagues. He has produced an Australian version of my book on English contract law and next week we shall present our first joint paper at an international conference. He has introduced me to his doctoral students working in this University and I have had the privilege of teaching them and working with them. For me, this is how international collaborations work best. It develops over time, is based on friendship, mutual respect and a commitment to scholarship which transcends national boundaries. But it does require the support of the university, in particular the support of the university leadership. In my case, without the encouragement of President Wang, the support of Professor Shan, the Dean of the Law School, and the assistance of the department of international co-operation and exchanges it would not have been possible for me to develop my current links with this University and to spend time with, and work with, Professor Liu in the way that I have been able to do over the last three years. I am therefore personally grateful to this University for the support it has given to me, for the opportunity to engage in new research with Professor Liu, to teach and work with his students and to meet many academic colleagues from different parts of the University. It is a privilege to be here today and I wish you all every success in the future.
Critical global challenges include (1) providing the energy we need at an affordable cost without environmental degradation; (2) overcoming public health problems from infectious diseases such as SARS and Ebola, and now the Zika virus, but also from chronic disease; (3) assuring the nutritious food and clean water needed by a growing global population; (4) overcoming poverty and contributing to economic well-being and security; and (5) developing approaches to addressing the problems of the aging of the global population. No single university, indeed no single country, can solve all the problems associated with these five critical challenges. Through collaborative programs of education and research, the University Alliance of the New Silk Road founded by Xi’an Jiaotong University holds the promise to make our world a better place for all. President Wang Shuguo and his colleagues are to be congratulated on this new initiative that will bring benefit and opportunity to so many.
St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America
On this happy occasion, I would like to convey to all graduates at both first degree and postgraduate levels my warmest congratulations. I am sure that the graduating students will agree with me when I say that you owe a great debt of gratitude to your families and your teachers for their unstinting support and wise guidance. It is a debt of honour which I am sure you will never forget. They must be very happy today and have every reason to be proud of your achievements. To them, I also wish to extend my congratulations and best wishes.
Mr Chairman, President Wang, Distinguished Guests：
So act honorably and ethically, develop a strong sense of responsibility and contribute to the welfare of society.