Inside Track | Queen’s Anniversary Prize – A Fairer Future for All in action

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, highlights how the award of a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize to Leeds goes to the heart of what A Fairer Future for All means at a global level.

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor Simone Buitendijk poses in front of one of the buildings on campus. August 2020.

A Fairer Future for All. Five small words that cover big terrain.

You might have heard this phrase recently, particularly in reference to some pledges we are making to improve people’s working lives at the University.

But the thinking behind this phrase also goes much wider and refers to our broader purpose and mission – to strive through our education and research to drive down inequalities and create a fairer world, particularly for those who have the least access to resources and opportunity.

That is a message that resonates close to home – we know that West Yorkshire has some very significant inequalities and, as a key part of the local fabric, we have an essential role to play in addressing these.

But inevitably, and rightly, a significant degree of the world-changing impact we can have will focus on less advantaged countries, many of them in the Global South.

With this in mind, I want to highlight the fact that, last night, we were awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our remarkable expertise and work on tropical weather systems – the third time we have been awarded the UK’s highest accolade for universities and colleges.

Developed over 25 years, our remarkable body of research in this area, and associated work educating and developing a new generation of climate experts in the Global South, has helped to improve weather modelling and forecasting, saving countless lives in the process.

This is, of course, a great honour for the University and is a tribute to the very many innovators, experts and creative thinkers that have all contributed. It is an area in which we can genuinely claim to be world leading, and our work has been highly collaborative, working with universities, research institutions and Government organisations across the Global South to ensure we channel our expertise to where it can have the greatest impact.

But beyond the award itself, this also goes to the heart of what A Fairer Future for All means at a global level – to harness the expertise, creativity and collaborative potential of our people to truly play a part in improving people’s lives and life chances. In this case, this has ranged from helping provide urgent storm alerts to more than two million people in Senegal’s fishing and farming communities, to helping predict hot, dry and dusty weather, which can spark meningitis outbreaks and much more besides. I encourage you to read a Spotlight piece on our website that sets out more detail on this essential, life-saving work.

So, this speaks to the vision for the values-driven University set out in our new 10-year strategy, Universal Values, Global Change. Often, strategies can appear a bit abstract on the page. They really come alive through the actions that stem from them. Our work in weather and climate science is a brilliant exemplar for this. It is the type of endeavour that defines the kind of institution we are and strive to be. And if we can build on this, we can act as a model for others in the sector, and collaborate with like-minded universities on a progressive agenda for changing the world.

That is why I am so keen that we today celebrate and acknowledge this success. Not only because it is an honour that we can be proud of, but because I hope, by sharing this success, it will show everyone that, whether directly or indirectly, we can all play a part in creating a fairer future for everyone on our planet.

Professor Simone Buitendijk 
Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds   

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