Saturday, 3 May 2014

Rt Hon Alan Milburn appointed next Chancellor of Lancaster University

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn will start as Lancaster University’s Chancellor from 1 January 2015. The Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission and former Health Secretary will take over from mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington CVO CBE DL, who will have served for 10 years.

Alan Milburn was Labour MP for Darlington (1992 to 2010) and now runs his own consultancy, advising governments and corporations worldwide. He is also involved in a variety of charitable projects as diverse as working with Tony Blair in Africa, to acting as a trustee for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

He credits the skills he learned at Lancaster, where he studied history, as a foundation for the whole of his working life and career. A member of Pendle College, he graduated in 1979 with a 2:1.

He arrived at university with a girlfriend, who was doing her teacher training near Preston. So he never lived on campus (which he now regrets) but lived with her in Morecambe and in Galgate, where they spent many hours at The Plough by the canal.

He was later awarded an honorary degree in 2000.

Following his graduation he started a PhD in Newcastle but ended up running a radical bookshop; became active in the trade union movement and took a leading role in a campaign to save Sunderland's shipbuilding industry. He eventually won the Darlington seat next to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency in 1992 and was immediately identified as one of the Labour party's modernisers.

He went on to serve within the UK Government as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Health (1999 and 2003) and as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, before his resignation from party politics in 2010.

According to Bloomberg, Alan Milburn also serves as:
  • Chairman of the European Advisory Board of Bridgepoint Advisers Limited 
  • Chair of the Global Advisors for Mars Incorporated 
  • Member of Board Advisors at Mars, Incorporated 
  • Chair of PwC's UK Health Industries Oversight Board
  • Chairman of iWant GreatCare Ltd
  • Adviser and a Member of the Healthcare Advisory Panel at Lloyds pharmacy Ltd
  • Non Executive Director of Diaverum AB
  • Member of Strategic Advisory Board at WellDoc, Inc since September 30, 2013
  • Member of Advisory Board at Pepsico, Inc., since April 2007

His more recent focus has been on social mobility, an interest inspired by his own background. According to his Lancaster University profile his mother brought him up on her own on a council estate in County Durham. She married when her son was 16 and moved to North Yorkshire. Suddenly the teenager was dragged away from a future suggested for him by his low-aspiring school as a Social Security administrator, and into the high-achieving Stokesley Comprehensive.

For the first time, he recalls, he began to consider university as both desirable and attainable. Equipped with a fistful of 'A' levels that would have got him to Oxbridge, he ignored his teachers and picked Lancaster for the attractiveness of the course it offered. In English. He later changed to History, with a then-available option to structure part of his course for himself, in his case in the form of a dissertation on the American Revolution.  He was the first member of his family ever to go to university:

"It is obvious that the top jobs in the UK come about via a well-travelled route from affluence, through private school and Oxbridge;  I got very very lucky in my life in where I ended up, in a journey from council estate to Cabinet. It is far more difficult today. The young people have talent, but the opportunities to move forward are not as well distributed in society as they should be - or as they were. That is wrong. I just want to do what little I can to make sure that university education is open to all young people to develop their talents, whatever their social or economic background."

In 2009, Alan Milburn chaired a governmental commission, the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. Its report recommended improvements in social mobility by acting at every life stage - school, university, internship and recruitment. This work continues as Chair of the newly created Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty to which he was appointed by the Coalition Government.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith said: “We are delighted to welcome Alan as Chancellor in the year of Lancaster’s 50th Anniversary, especially as an alumnus. The University, like him, is committed to making sure that higher education is open to all young people to develop their talents, whatever their social or economic background.

“I would also like to pay tribute to Sir Chris Bonington who retires this year after ten tremendous years of being committed to Lancaster as our Chancellor.  We look forward to a continuing association with Chris.”

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn said: “I am honoured to follow in Chris’s footsteps.  He has been an outstanding Chancellor of a great university.   It is a privilege to become Chancellor of the university that gave me such strong foundations for my life and career.  Now, as then, Lancaster is leading the way in creating opportunities for young people to realise their aspirations in life.  I look forward to working with students and staff in making Lancaster University even more successful in future.”  

Alan Milburn will be Lancaster’s third Chancellor, the first being the founding Chancellor HRH Princess Alexandra who served from 1964 – 2004 and was one of the longest serving university chancellors in the UK.

Watch a video of Alan Milburn remembering his time at Lancaster, recorded in October 2013 during his visit to campus, where he delivered a public lecture on social mobility.

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