The Rector of the University of Iceland discussed the importance of knowledge creation and innovation in his address to over two thousand new graduates in Laugardalshöll on Saturday. Students graduated from both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at all University faculties.
"Almost on a weekly basis, we are reminded of how society benefits from innovation and entrepreneurship," said Jón Atli Benediktsson, pointing to the example of Marel, a high-tech company created when entrepreneurs at the University of Iceland joined forces with forward thinkers in the fishing industry.
"Marel now employs around six thousand people in 30 countries, serving clients in 180 countries," said the Rector. "The company's market value is now around 420 billion króna. It hardly needs to be said that companies like Marel create enormously diverse opportunities for university educated graduates from many different fields."
Jón Atli said that it was very important for us all to build a vibrant community where entrepreneurs at the University and individuals in the private sector have the opportunity to use their combined ingenuity to benefit society as a whole, as happened in the example of Marel. International measurements from respected institutions unequivocally show that the University of Iceland is among the leading universities in the world with regard to collaboration with industry and impact on society.
"The strategies of the University of Iceland have borne this fruit, both in the short term and the long term. The success of the University is the success of the nation," said Jón Atli, and cited the words of the former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir – "knowledge builds the renown of nations".
"I sincerely hope that the challenges of the world today fill you not with apathy and despair, but with determination and the spirit of enterprise. "Human heads are rather heavy," said the poet Sigfús Daðason, adding "but we shall stand upright nonetheless." With knowledge as your weapon, you are truly prepared to face life in all its variety with your heads held high, both alone and in collaboration with others."
Universities create an environment that encourages open debate
Jón Atli also urged graduates to keep in mind the importance of an educational ideal embodying the pursuit of truth for truth's sake and development for development's sake. "Equality and respect for others, for society and for nature are vitally important here, but of no less importance is the fight for freedom of expression. To be worthy of the name, a university must create an environment that encourages open and critical debate, where people are unafraid to voice their opinions, even opinions that are unpopular or contradict the dominant consensus," said Jón Atli.
In his address, Jón Atli made special mention of how gratifying it was to see a significant rise in students pursuing teacher education, noting that the trend of deteriorating numbers had been successfully turned around through the concerted efforts of the University, the government and other stakeholders. "Now we are looking forward to huge numbers of new students enrolling in the School of Education for the next academic year. I don't need to state the importance of teachers in our society and it is absolutely crucial that their work is valued as it should be."
The Rector finished by encouraging the graduates to use the knowledge that they had acquired in their studies at the University Council for the benefit of society, the natural kingdom and the environment.
"There are challenges whichever way we turn, in climate change issues, the development of democracy, information pollution and the unequal distribution of power and resources. This is the reality that you are inheriting," said Jón Atli. He continued, "I sincerely hope that the challenges of the world today fill you not with apathy and despair, but with determination and the spirit of enterprise. "Human heads are rather heavy," said the poet Sigfús Daðason, adding "but we shall stand upright nonetheless." With knowledge as your weapon, you are truly prepared to face life in all its variety with your heads held high, both alone and in collaboration with others."