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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Honouring Chevening scholars

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Meg made the following remarks at a reception to honour Chevening scholars and thank their sponsors. For details about Chevening visit: http://www.chevening.com/

A warm welcome to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

I’m glad to see so many scholars here, as well as representatives of sponsors and higher education institutions. A particular thanks to those of who have travelled a long way to be here.

Chevening is the British Government’s flagship scholarship scheme. It is one of the most effective means we have of cultivating long-lasting bonds of friendship with other countries. During my visits overseas as a Foreign Office minister I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several Chevening alumni who now hold positions where they interact with the British government and British business on a daily basis. The relationships that you have forged continue, they can last for decades.

Chevening creates a broad network of people in a wide range of leadership roles who can work together to tackle the challenges that affect us all. Networks such as Chevening will become more important as foreign policy continues to rapidly evolve toward the art of resolving global issues, not defending narrow national self-interest. The solutions to international challenges will come increasingly from outside government.

Scholarships and fellowships

The Foreign Office spent about 36 million on scholarships and fellowships in 2007-08.  By far the largest share of this - 27 million was spent on Chevening scholarships. That enabled nearly 1400 Chevening scholars, funded by us and co-sponsors, to study at UK institutions of higher education this academic year.

We will spend a smaller amount overall on scholarships in the next three academic years. This is part of a restructuring of Foreign Office funding to free up approximately 10 million a year for new activity on our policy goals. The majority of this will be spent on programmes to support the development and implementation of a low-carbon, high-growth economy. This is a key area of our future work.

Inevitably this will result in the competition for the award being even more intense. We plan to do much more to develop our links with alumni, right from the point of selection of nominees through to their subsequent careers. I’ve been able to see successful alumni networks in action, just last month I gave a talk to the very active Malaysian alumni group in Kuala Lumpur. They have a thriving network, offering real opportunities to keep in touch and to develop new contacts.

The benefits of Chevening

With so many demands on budgets it’s only worth continuing funding programmes if the results are clearly positive and I have no doubts about this programme. Chevening provides positive benefits all those involved in it: scholars, the countries you come from, UK universities, co-sponsors, and the British government.

For scholars, Chevening offers a gateway to an education and experience in the UK. We hope this has provided an opportunity to network with others studying in the same field, and that your experiences here will be of use throughout your careers.

For your countries, we hope that through your involvement in Chevening that their future leaders have gained new expertise and experience.

Within the UK our universities benefit from a wider pool of scholars, more diversity and an enhanced reputation.

For co-sponsors, Chevening helps open up an increased pool of talent in a world that increasingly recognises the value of diversity.

From our perspective, we gain access to an ever-growing network of people, many of whom will become leaders in their own country, who have an understanding about the UK and the British people.

A word for the scholars

The students who are here should be proud of being Chevening scholars. This is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world.

British Embassies and High Commissions choose students whom they have identified as future leaders. You are Chevening scholars because we think that you have the potential to make a real positive difference, for your own countries, for the UK.

I hope you have found your time in the UK an enriching experience. Not just through the experience of studying at one of our universities, but also through exploring the UK, getting to know the people better, making new friends.

Our co-sponsors

While Chevening is a Foreign and Commonwealth Office scheme, it would not be possible to host so many scholars without generous contributions from others. I’d like to offer my thanks to the organisations that have joined us by co-sponsoring scholarships. I am delighted to see HSBC, the Canon Collins Trust and the Open Society Foundation here this evening. I hope your support for the scheme will continue.

We’re also grateful to the universities which host our Chevening scholars, many of whom are represented here this evening. Thank you for your support - academic, financial and pastoral for all our scholars.

A particular thanks to our British Council colleagues. They do excellent work in managing Chevening arrangements around the world, and for arranging today’s event.

The future

Chevening already has at least 32,000 alumni. That is a huge resource and we want to stay in contact with you all. The 25th anniversary of Chevening begins in September and we will be using the occasion to highlight new steps we’re taking to develop our future relationship with you. A brand new website will be launched in the autumn so that we can better network, and so that you can better network with each other.

You will have seen the postcards we want you to complete with your contact details. This will ensure we can invite you to log on to the new website. Gary Fisher, the Chevening Alumni Manager, will be drawing one card from all those completed shortly before the end of the evening. If it’s your card, you’ll win an i-touch phone.

Thank you for attending today, please enjoy the evening and please do stay in touch.    

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