Q You have given generously to widening participation and educational outreach programmes at the University, and to several projects at St Catharine's College including Lecturer and Teaching Officer posts and a new lecture and arts theatre complex. What drew you to these particular causes?
A My strong conviction is that Cambridge must continue to offer a world-class education in an appropriate, collegiate environment that provides students with active, focused tuition. But that conviction is built on the belief that Cambridge's rich and diverse mix, from which I benefitted so greatly, is sustained by doing all it can to attract the brightest and the best from all backgrounds. Experience tells us that this won't happen by chance; it requires a conscious effort and determination. So I want to help others to have the same opportunity that I did. On the one hand, in particular given the structure of primary and secondary education in the UK, this means that we need to invest in widening participation initiatives: and on the other hand, that we must continue to invest in both teaching positions and improvements to College facilities. I have been happy to assist in all of these areas.
Q What did Cambridge mean to you as a student?
A I grew up in and went to a grammar school in Belfast and did not have the expectation of going to anywhere other than university in Northern Ireland. However the school encouraged me to apply to St Catharine's College and I was offered a place to read geography. I went up with some trepidation, but quickly settled in. For me, given the ability and diversity of those who I got to know (and many of these friendships have lasted a lifetime) and the rigour of academic context, Cambridge widened my horizons, raised my aspiration and challenged my assumptions. And in a very real sense this experience changed my outlook and fundamentally my direction of travel in life... I doubt that I would have ended up a CEO and then Chairman of a FTSE 100 company without it.
Q How has that changed?
A Cambridge remains an exceptional environment intellectually and academically. But as I have said, I am concerned that, given the structure of primary and secondary education, Cambridge may now be a less accessible place to bright students who would thrive here, and risks losing some of the rich diversity that made it such a special place for me. So while I recognise that there are other factors to consider here, I believe it is entirely appropriate for Cambridge to be proactive in widening access, not by diluting standards but by raising aspirations and widening horizons for talented individuals across the state system.
Educated in Belfast at Methodist College, Harvey McGrath came up to Cambridge in 1971 to study Geography. He went on to work for Chase Manhattan Bank, and in 1980 started his twenty-seven year career with the Man Group, of which he became Group Chief Executive then Chairman. Now Chairman of Prudential plc, he is an active philanthropist, supporting a range of causes relating to deprivation, education and divided communities. He is Chairman of the London Development Agency, which aims to deliver the Mayor's vision for London as a sustainable world city with a strong commitment to long-term economic growth, social inclusion, and active environmental improvement; Vice-Chairman of the London Skills and Employment Board, responsible for the adult skills strategy in London; and a founding donor and Trustee of New Philanthropy Capital, a research-based charity that provides guidance and advice to donors. In an interview with the Times in 2005, Harvey McGrath is quoted as saying, of his philanthropic and charitable activity, that: "'Putting something back' is the casual phrase that explains it. It's nice to be in a position to do so from the point of view of time and financial capacity."
Back to top