A reminder of why international collaboration is so essential.

The activities at the beginning of COP26 last week have emphasised that addressing climate change is a global issue, not one solved by a single nation and that it requires collaboration and understanding of a range of complex issues. As a University that has reached out across the globe for two hundred years, Heriot-Watt is especially well-placed – and indeed carries responsibilities – to be leading the pace on this. Gaining secure and independent access to water, energy, food and materials in any one nation must be balanced with the ethics of how it affects others who cannot do the same. Hence the importance of the United Nations Sustainability Goals (UNSDGs), which we are determined to embrace through our own global sustainability strategy.

In this Remembrance Week we commemorate in sombre spirit, and with thankfulness, those who have suffered in wars of territory, principle, and sometimes misunderstanding. As I stand on the steps of the Edinburgh City’s Universities Cenotaph in the Old College quadrangle at The University of Edinburgh this Sunday and look upon the names of those who gave their lives, it will be a moving moment. It inspires me even further to ensure that, given our University’s purpose, we can embrace the liberating power of education to foster sound understanding across all the nations we work with. In addition to our own staff, we have over 140,000 living alumni in 198 countries with the potency to speak out and lead by example.

All this connects with our values to collaborate and inspire in developing our international partnerships. We have never taken an isolationist policy, but have faced up to the realities. Recently I gave a short talk to express why international research collaboration is so important for future working. As with all things, there are different views, especially driven by political divides that can strive to create simplistic polar extremes – but as an educational charity, we have a duty to embrace international collaborations that can result in more rapid breakthroughs in research for the common good and to provide deeper education for more people, to be the benefit of society. The installation of the Chancellor and his inspirational talk reminds us of the need to express being “one humanity”. You can view my remarks relating to collaboration with China here.

I offer my thanks, support and sympathy to those alumni and staff who have served and lost in the line of duty as we respectfully mark Remembrance Day this week.

Professor Richard A. Williams
Principal and Vice-Chancellor