National period of mourning: A message from Vice-Chancellor, Professor Katie Normington

The effect of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s death has been profound and millions of people around the world, whether monarchists or republicans, have been deeply moved. Queen Elizabeth was one of the few constants in our lives, someone always there. That is perhaps what is so unsettling about the end of the second Elizabethan Age – that it has come to a close after 70 years.

At this time of uncertainty with spiralling financial costs, unrest seen around the world, and the ongoing effects of Covid, the constancy of the monarch is something we might have hoped would remain. Indeed, it is at those moments that Queen Elizabeth knew she could try to provide some reassurance. At the height of the pandemic, as we all isolated in our homes, she reminded us, echoing Vera Lynn’s World War Two lyrics, that better times would come and that ‘We will meet again’.

Little has been written in the last few days of the Queen’s relationship with Higher Education. She is known to have been a keen advocate of research and its potential to affect lives. She was patron of the Commonwealth Universities Association and the British Science Association, which organises the British Science Festival (BSF). This week we are proud to host the BSF which, after carefully considering the official guidance for the period of national mourning, the British Science Association and ourselves have decided to go ahead with. We hope it will act as a celebration of the Queen’s support of research and education.

Another demonstration of the Queen’s support for research was through her founding of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. Just a few hours before the Queen’s death was announced, I received an invitation for DMU to apply. Our entry, to what will now be the King’s Anniversary Prize, will be one of our tributes to the Queen.

The titles of such awards show just one of the changes that will need to be brought about. There are so many ways that the Queen’s name and image are embedded in our lives; through coins, banknotes, stamps, her regal initials on post-boxes and through much of our terminology. The legal system will no longer talk of QCs, but now KCs (King’s Counsel). I realise, apart from King’s Cross, the word ‘King’ just isn’t something I use much. All that will change. At the weekend we saw the accession of King Charles III to the throne and note that his passion for the environment is something we share through our research and teaching on sustainability and position as a UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) academic impact hub for SDG 16.

The country is now in a period of national mourning, which lasts until the end of the day of the State Funeral (next Monday, 19 September). DMU will be following the Government’s national mourning guidance throughout this time. We will be honouring the national bank holiday on the day of the funeral, which means that DMU will officially be closed and most university business will cease, in line with other bank holidays. However, we will honour certain commitments, such as international student arrivals, on that day and other normal bank holiday student support arrangements are likely to still apply. We are still working through the details of those arrangements and will communicate those with students in due course.

We know that for many, this period of mourning is a time to reflect and celebrate the Queen’s reign. There are many opportunities to do this across the city, including sending an online message of condolence and leaving flowers and other tributes in Green Dragon Square. The Leicester City Council website has more details. A national one-minute silence will be held across the UK at 8pm on Sunday (18 September).

Here at DMU, we will be running a rolling tribute to the Queen on the large screen outside the Vijay Patel Building and the exhibition space there will become a memorial display. Our Trinity House Building has been lit in purple from dusk until dawn over the weekend and this will continue for the coming days.

Facing this moment of flux, I am reminded of the investiture of our new Chancellor, Akram Khan, which took place only a few weeks ago. In it he spoke to our graduates about their future and reminded them that our way of seeing the past and the future as that which sits behind and in front of us respectively is only one view. Akram pointed out that other cultures see past events as in front of them, all the things we have experienced and know about, while the future is behind us. It is unknown. It’s one of those moments we find ourselves in now, a chance to reflect on the past we can see clearly, but be ready to turn around and find out about the future.

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Posted on Tuesday 13 September 2022

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