Reception for Trinity Alumni & Friends in Malaysia

Embassy of Ireland, Kuala Lumpar

Wednesday 7th November 2018, 7,30pm


Thank you, Ambassador1, for those kind words, and thank you so much for hosting us here, tonight. As a thank you for hosting us I would like to present you with a copy of Trinity in War and Revolution, by Tómas Irish, a book that was published last year as one of our contributions to the Decade of Commemorations.

It’s wonderful to be here in Kuala Lumpur, and to be in the Irish Embassy is particularly special. I thank all the staff here in the Embassy, particularly Catherine Aylward and Thila Nallia, for their help in organising this evening.

And I thank all of you for taking the time to be here tonight. I’m delighted at this opportunity to meet you. Wherever I am in the world, I like to connect with graduates – fortunately that is almost always possible since Trinity has over 115,000 alumni living in more than 150 countries round the world.

My first formal visit as Provost to Malaysia was in 2014, and there have been several visits over the past few years, including Trinity’s former and current Vice-Presidents for Global Relations, Jane Ohlmeyer and Juliette Hussey. Members of our School of Medicine are particularly frequent visitors to Malaysia with the Head of the School of Medicine visiting earlier this year – this reflects the long tradition of Malaysian students coming to Trinity to study medicine.

In Trinity we are proud of our links with Malaysia and we seek to build on these. There are around 500 Trinity alumni in Malaysia, and just over 120 students from Malaysia are currently studying in Trinity. We have been working on a partnership with Sunway University for the last four years in Music, and we plan to have an articulation agreement with Sunway in the coming year.

1His Excellency Ambassador Eamon Hickey

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This trip to Asia began when the Trinity delegation left Dublin on the 23rd of October. We went first to Australia – Sydney and Melbourne – and then to Singapore, then to Perth, and we are now here in Malaysia. We’ve had many alumni events on the way, organised ably by my colleagues Meghan Donaldson and Carmen Leon – they are exceptional - thank you both. And to Kate Bond Trinity’s Director of Advancement – it’s a pleasure to work with her on advancing Trinity in the world.

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In our time together this evening, I’d like to fill you in briefly on how Trinity is doing – what we have achieved and what we look forward to achieving. And I’d like to say a few words about the Philanthropic Campaign which we’ll be launching shortly.

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For me, a few achievements really stand out this year. In May, we made our formal announcement of our plan to build a new Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies Institute, which we’re calling E3.

E3 will be a game-changer. It will educate students of engineering, natural sciences and computer science to address the challenges of a liveable planet. It will be transformative both in terms of content - with more focus on sustainability – and in terms of methods and teaching techniques.

Students will learn from each other to develop innovative solutions towards, for instance, climate change, renewable energy, personalised data, water, connectivity and sustainable manufacturing.

E3 is a truly ambitious initiative and we’ve already raised over 40 million of the 60 million euro needed, thanks to state support and philanthropy, including the largest single philanthropic gift in the history of the Irish state – €25 million euro from the Naughton family.

E3 will be developed in two stages – first the E3 Learning Foundry to educate more students in the STEM disciplines, and then the E3 Research Institute which will be the centrepiece of a new campus at Grand Canal Dock. We have ambitious plans for this new campus. In July, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launched a far-reaching plan for the creation of the Grand Canal Innovation District in Dublin.

Ahead of that, next March will see the opening of the new Trinity Business School. The finishing stages are currently being put on this state-of-the-art building beside Science Gallery on Pearse Street. The new School will open its doors in March 2019.

Underpinning E3, the Trinity Business School, the Innovation District and all our ambitious initiatives is Trinity’s remarkable achievement in research.

Last year Trinity won €100.6 million euro in research funding. Four years ago, that figure was €74 million. In less than five years we have increased our research revenue by one third.

Looking at our success in winning awards from major funding bodies such as the European Commission’s Horizon 2020, the European Research Council and the Irish Research Council.

And Trinity has nowhere near the public funding of those three universities. For our staff to be so competitive in the winning of grants shows how truly exceptional is the research being carried out in Trinity.

Confirmation that our research is world-class gives us the confidence to plan major initiatives for the university.

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In six months’ time we will be launching the first comprehensive Philanthropic Campaign in Trinity’s history. The Campaign will go across the university.

In addition to capital projects, we want the Campaign to invest in people and in our access programme. Trinity is emerging as a world leader in creating pathways for students from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds to proceed to third-level education. The Trinity Access Programme, also called ‘TAP’, is central to our mission in education and research. We believe that all students of aptitude and ability should have the opportunity to proceed to third-level no matter what their background or circumstances are.

In addition to E3, which I’ve already mentioned, let me say a brief word about two other flagship initiatives of the Campaign: the Library and the Trinity St James Cancer Institute.

Trinity’s Library, is of course, unique. We have the only copies in the world of certain early, medieval and renaissance manuscripts, including the UNESCO heritage treasure, the Book of Kells.

It’s impossible to imagine Trinity without these treasures. And we are acutely conscious of our duty of care – to Ireland, to world heritage, to future generations. These manuscripts are unique. Should they be lost, something of the world’s greatness is lost.

We have a double duty – to conserve and to share our unique holdings. And when we talk about ‘sharing’ that means physically and digitally. Scholars must be able to view our priceless manuscripts online, and to consult them on campus in person.

The Philanthropic Campaign will focus on:

  • conserving the Old Library Building, the Long Room and its holdings;
  • fully digitising our online collections; and
  • creating a Manuscripts Study Centre.

I want this study centre to go into the ground floor of the Old Library. The thousands of visitors who queue to see the Book of Kells weekly should file past a beautiful room, with scholars from around the world bent over priceless manuscripts.

The Trinity St James Cancer Institute links the university with the hospital. It brings together medics, oncology researchers and PIs like nurses, dieticians and physiotherapists working in patient-centred research and care. The institute already exists virtually insofar as these practitioners and researchers are already working across Trinity and St James. The goal is to establish the essential pathways and linkages to facilitate discovery, and speed up the transition of treatments to patients.

Of course, we don’t want to create just any centre. This is our opportunity to create a comprehensive cancer centre of recognised global excellence.  And it’s also our opportunity to contribute to the global search for cancer cures and improvements in treatment.

It’s not easy to make an impact globally in cancer research because this is an area of high global interest and investment. But in Trinity I think we can genuinely make a global contribution because of our leadership in immuno-oncology. We are ranked in the top 1% of immunology research globally, and through the Trinity St James Cancer Institute, we can translate this into patient care in a potentially transformative way.

To be able to say in five, ten, fifteen years that in Trinity we pioneered immuno-oncology, developing individualised and customised patient-centred cancer care with fewer side-effects than traditional treatments – that is going to be an amazing moment for all of us. 

It can happen if – as with the Trinity Business School and as with E3 – we secure sufficient philanthropy to leverage state support and loans.

Philanthropy and state investment are mutually enforcing. With the Philanthropic Campaign, we do not expect our projects to rely solely on philanthropy. Donors do not, and should not, give money to replace exchequer money. They support us as part of a bigger investment plan.

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We are inviting alumni and friends to be part of something vital for the university and for Dublin, Ireland and global research.

We launch this campaign because we are confident, as I’ve said, in Trinity’s research and education success. We ask support for a university that has proved itself time again.

And we are confident in launching this campaign because we know we can count on such exceptional graduates.

Trinity could not have developed in the way it has without the support of our alumni.

Graduates like yourselves have remained so engaged with the college, attending events like these, returning to campus on visits, and staying connected through the alumni office.

Many of you give financial support through the University of Dublin Fund, and through funding scholarships and access programmes. You help with mentoring students and graduates when they come abroad.

I note also that Malaysia doesn’t currently have a Trinity alumni branch despite there being 500 Trinity graduates living here. We hope to remedy this because an alumni branch is the best and easiest way to connect with Trinity people in your region, stay tuned in to college activities, and welcome new arrivals. We look forward to helping should any of you feel inspired to start up and run a local branch.

We are hugely grateful for all alumni support. As a sign of our appreciation, last year we opened an Alumni Room in Front Square. This was enabled by generous philanthropic support and it’s for your use for you to relax in or hold meetings in, so do please avail of it whenever you’re in Dublin. It’s a particularly comfortable and beautiful room.

And last year, to commemorate the college’s 425th anniversary, we brought out this book of photos taken by students, staff and alumni, with an introductory essay by myself, in which I walk around campus.

We’ve brought along a few copies of the book, which I’d be delighted to sign. The photos will, I hope, bring back great memories.

I thank you all for your commitment to Trinity, for coming here tonight and giving me the chance to meet you. Please do continue to stay in touch – online and in person whenever you’re in Dublin.

Trinity has so many exciting initiatives and plans for the future. With your help, we look forward to continuing with the great education, research and innovation that has such impact in Dublin, Ireland and the world.

Thank you.

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