Universities are more important than ever in Trump and Brexit era, says Nobel Prize-winner

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Sir Paul Nurse, University Chancellor (from 2017)

New Delhi: Universities and its experts are ‘needed now more than ever’ to counter unsubstantiated opinions and false claims in the Trump and Brexit era, according to Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse.

He made the comments as he was officially sworn in as Chancellor of the University of Bristol last night [22 March], when he also championed the benefits of research and teaching for public good – and reinforced universities’ commitment to the pursuit of truth.

Sir Paul Nurse, a former President of the Royal Society, said: “In an era of post and alternative truths, experts are being derided by some individuals on the public stage who seek to influence public opinion by bluster and unsubstantiated claims.

“Such individuals often lack the necessary knowledge, are unable to employ or do not wish to employ rational argument, have little respect for evidence, and yet scorn experts who base their views on all of these.

“This is what universities are for, to counter unsubstantiated opinion, whether from Trump twitter land, or closer to home, from individuals such as those who made wild claims during the Brexit debate.

“Universities are needed now more than ever before to uphold values that liberal societies cherish, that are central to civilisation and to the progress of humanity.”

Sir Paul, a leading geneticist and cell biologist whose work on the control of cell division underpins current research into treatments for cancer and other serious diseases, started his term as Chancellor of the University of Bristol in January. He took over from The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, who had held the role since 2004.

As Chancellor of the University of Bristol, Sir Paul will be the ceremonial head of the institution and play an important ambassadorial role, nationally and internationally.

He said: “It’s a huge honour to be appointed Chancellor of the University of Bristol, which is one of the world’s great universities. University had such a transformational role in my life and I know Bristol has the same impact on its excellent students.

“From the short time I’ve been Chancellor, I can see what an inspirational place it is – for its students, and also its staff who are carrying out fascinating research which is shaping our knowledge of the world.

“Universities have a huge role to play in providing knowledge and thought leadership about how we live well in an ever-changing world. I see Bristol at the forefront of that challenge, and I look forward to working with them as their ambitious plans for the future take shape.”

Sir Paul’s installation ceremony was set against the ethereal backdrop of renowned artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon – a giant replica of the moon suspended above the audience.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, said: “In Sir Paul, we are fortunate to have a Chancellor who embodies perfectly the tenacity, rigour, curiosity and passion for knowledge that animate our plans for the University’s future.

“He has an unrivalled standing in the scientific community, in this country and across the world. I have no doubt he will be a great inspiration for our staff and students. I’m delighted to officially welcome him to the University as we embark on an exciting new chapter in our history.”

Previous Chancellors include Viscount Haldane, originator of the Haldane Principle, former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Jeremy Morse, who provided the inspiration for Inspector Morse, and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Professor Dorothy Hodgkin.