President Mandela seeks support from UK universities

In a unique ceremony, on a perfect sunny afternoon, in the idyllic gardens of Buckingham Palace, the Chancellor conferred a Degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma upon Nelson Mandela, State President of the Republic of South Africa.

Oxford was the first of eight universities on 10 July to process to a dais to award the President degrees, by dint of being the oldest university.

The Public Orator, Professor Jasper Griffin, in a moving address in Latin, praised the President for proving himself in power to be a man of great moderation, `who has displayed to former opponents the greatest fairness, good will and magnanimity' despite suffering many years of unjust hardship and imprisonment.

In his admission speech, the Chancellor recognised Mr Mandela as a man `distinguished both for great courage and statesmanship', now governing the country with `wisdom and fairness', before handing over the traditional scroll.

The University was followed by Cambridge, represented by its Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Universities of London, Bristol, Nottingham, Warwick, De Montfort, and Glasgow Caledonian.

The President, in his reply, spoke with great humility, accepting the accolades not for his personal achievements but for his country `which had turned away from division and conflict towards a peaceful life'. He also thanked all those in British universities who had provided such generous support in the form of scholarship programmes to help train South Africans.

`Your programmes not only enlarge the body of trained people, but also provide a transfusion of knowledge from a small and privileged minority to one meeting the needs of all the people of South Africa.'

He said South African universities still had `to drink at the well of experience' of British universities. They had much to learn, for example the balance between research and study, so that they could play their part fully in the development of the country.

Oxford launches its new Canon Collins/FCO Scholarship programme this autumn bringing up to five young scholars to Oxford for a year each, and during the forthcoming visit of the Vice-Chancellor to South Africa in September, discussions will continue on a new Oxford programme aimed at providing middle-level university academics a chance to enhance their management, teaching, and research skills.

Pledges totalling £110,000 have already been received, with gifts from the Reuter Foundation, GlaxoWellcome, Mr Tiny Rowland, and the South African company, ACEI.

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