Gordon Johnson, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, reflected on the different roles of institutions of higher education in society, emphasizing the importance of building alliances with other universities, in a lecture held in honor of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary this year.
“Collaboration is essential,” Johnson said. “It is incredibly rare for an isolated group to produce something of real interest.”
Johnson, who is also provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust—which awards scholarships to students outside the U.K. to undertake graduate degrees at Cambridge—emphasized that universities are integral to society.
“Universities that are involved in scholarship and research by being critical of the status quo are in a position to influence change,“ Johnson said.
He also said that many of the technologies integral to today’s society are “only possible due to the secure intellectual grounds of the university.”
According to Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes, who teaches a course on the history of Harvard, the University has long-standing, if informal, ties to Johnson’s institution.
The root of Harvard University’s name comes from Emmanuel College, Cambridge graduate John Harvard, who bequeathed his estate and half his library collection to what was then a nascent college when he died.
“There is always a...gaggle...of Harvard students in Cambridge and Cambridge students in Harvard, and in that sense I think that the ties are continuing,” Gomes said.