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A chat with Chancellor, Sandi Toksvig

Chancellor of The University of Portsmouth, Sandi Toksvig, hosted the second Chancellor’s dinner on Saturday 14th March.

The event, which took place at Portsmouth’s Guildhall, saw staff members, alumni and current students gather to spend the evening with Sandi and her special guest, British barrister Helena Kennedy.

The Galleon spoke to Sandi shortly before she dashed off to introduce the meal.


Photo by Wesley Reuel


In terms of the University, what have you been up to in the past year? 

“It’s hard to actually encompass absolutely everything that I do because there’s so many departments that I get to go around. In fact I’ve been to the journalism department and I learnt a bit of short hand. They showed me my name in short hand which I enjoyed very much and trying to encourage them to take it as an honourable profession which is what it is and what it used to be but hasn’t always been I’m afraid lately.

“I’ve been around all of the sports departments. I met some very tall basketball players and the netball and the football and the hockey players which was actually fantastic and international day  where all the student s give out food from their different countries. It was a fantastic event.”

In terms of the upcoming year, what do you hope to do that you maybe haven’t had a chance to do this year?

“Well the thing that we have in the pipeline at the moment is the Chancellor’s 5k Fun Run. I am very concerned about fitness, and not just the students; the staff as well. So everybody, from the cleaners to the professors, to the students to the graduate students, everybody. I would like to see everyone doing a little more physical fitness. Not because of looks in any way, not to become better looking but because it’s good for our health and I have a genuine concern about that. I will be running in it and I would like to see a swathe of purple out there on the day.

“The run will be in Portsmouth on September 26th on Southsea Common, so come and join in. I don’t care if you walk, I don’t care if you crawl, I don’t care if you run, I don’t care if you’re not competitive. Come and have fun; it’s going to be good for your heart. You’ll be able to register online closer to the time.

“I shall run the whole thing but if you start training now you will have no trouble whatsoever.  I want everyone running, even the vice-chancellor running. I want everyone to know that fitness is for everybody. It’s going to be fun. I want great photos of endless purple.”

The Galleon: It’s hard to stay fit and eat well at university. 

“That’s the next thing I should do – cooking classes! You can eat really well and still eat cheaply. You just need to have a few lessons.”

A lot of people are graduating this year and we have to face the big, wide world. You’ve been so successful and done so much with your life. What would you say to students who are in my position, what would your advice be to make the most of life?

“Well, don’t expect life to come to you, is the first thing. You have to get up and get going. If you lie in bed, honestly, the chances of you being a big success are not going to be great. You need to innovate but I’m jealous of particularly someone like yourself who’s going in to journalism.

“I think the opportunities now are phenomenal. The opportunities for blogging, for doing stuff on YouTube, for not worrying whether a terrestrial broadcaster is going to hire you. Do your own thing, innovate, and find new ways of sending out information.

“We need citizen journalism. We need people who are out there finding the story and making sure it gets to the public and that it isn’t being interfered with by corporate greed or the branding that everybody worries about.

“Rather than feeling depressed about the state of the world I feel really excited about it. I get that there are big issues. I am saddened, for example, that maybe young people won’t be able to get a mortgage with the same kind of ease that the older generation did but then I think about it and maybe you don’t need the pressure.

“Maybe that’s nice. Where I come from, Copenhagen, most people don’t own their own homes; they rent and then if they don’t like somewhere, they move. So there’s a kind of freedom and fluidity to modern life. My oldest child has been on three gap years, I haven’t been on one. So I think it’s an exciting time but all you have to do is be determined and get up and get going.”


What would be your advice to new students that are coming next year?

Well, one thing that I absolutely hope  is that everybody intermingles. What I hope is that you don’t arrive identifying yourself with one particular group and stay in that one particular group. So, say you are a maths person and you only associate with maths people or you come from a particular country and you only associate yourself with people from that particular country.

What I really would like to see is even more intermingling. Even more students trying to belong to different societies that maybe they would never have even thought of. Now is the time to dare, now is the time to do three years of stuff that maybe you will never do again.

Try dancing, try cheerleading; I don’t care what you try! Try football, try something new. I think the most important thing is that when you arrive you don’t just stick to your subject. You know the Americans talk about majoring and minoring. I think it’s really important that you have a major subject; that’s the reason why you came, that’s the degree you’re doing but you also have other things that develop you as a person because otherwise I think you’ll be a bit boring.

So I would like to see all the societies reaching out to the new students and trying to get as many new students in to the societies as they possibly can.”

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