I am writing to the many members of Robinson College – our former undergraduate and graduate students, now spread across the world, and to the College's many friends and supporters. It’s my third week as Warden. Our first-year undergraduates have matriculated; last Tuesday we formally admitted seven new Fellows. The rhythm of term is under way.
Robinson, as you know, is a wonderful and quite unusual College. In Cambridge terms, it is still a young foundation, though “new” is no longer quite the right word for it. Already, some great scholarship has been pursued by Robinson Fellows and students. Enterprises have taken root here. Forty annual cohorts of undergraduate and graduate students have learned here, and have gone out into a wide variety of careers and callings – in business, in the arts and sciences, in the professions, and in public service. Robinson no longer has to prove itself.
But Robinson’s founding principles remain strong, and they are worth celebrating. Its first Fellows wanted the College to be friendly and unstuffy, and that remains a characteristic we are proud of. Traditions that were common elsewhere in Cambridge were not adopted here if they seemed likely to exclude people or make people feel unwelcome. Robinson is part of the ancient university, but it should be unapologetically modern.
At the same time, we are determined to do better. We want to improve markedly our record on widening participation, and we are ambitious for Robinson to be better known by potential students from the widest possible range of schools and backgrounds. Cambridge is an exceptional University; for many students, Robinson ought to be an attractive first choice – independent-minded, supportive, radically different, and inclusive. “Supportive” is not just a word; we are investing in the well-being and welfare services we offer to our students, to put Robinson at the forefront of the colleges in this important respect. We also want to be, and remain, a good employer, making sure that our wonderful, committed workforce have excellent pay and conditions. And we need to be able to attract and retain brilliant academic staff across the range of subjects offered by the University.
Robinson is incredibly grateful for the support (in all its forms) that our alumni and friends have been able to give us over the past 18 months. We needed the help of our community, particularly in the aftermath of the lockdowns which impeded our other sources of income. For as long as we are an ambitious College (and you can be sure that the Fellowship and I have a strong, shared ambition), that need will continue.
On behalf of everyone at Robinson, I warmly invite you to stay in touch. If you can spare a moment, please drop me a line saying what you liked most (or least) about the College in your time here, or offering your view on where you think the College should put our focus and energy. If you have not taken part in this survey seeking feedback on our existing events and publications, it will remain open until the end of November. I will personally enjoy meeting as many of you as possible in person over the coming months, with a programme of alumna/alumnus and supporter events coming up. If you are able to visit Cambridge at any other time, please come and see us. The College and gardens will always be open to you.
With my best wishes