De Montfort ga ga as Queen selects it for Jubilee party

Staff and students 'pinching themselves' over monarch's choice of launch pad. Paul Jump writes

March 8, 2012



Credit: Getty
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Even the die-hard republicans among De Montfort University staff are "mildly enthusiastic" about this week's high-profile visit of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Cambridge, according to the university's vice-chancellor.

Dominic Shellard told Times Higher Education ahead of the event - due to take place on 8 March - that staff and students were still "pinching themselves" that the Queen had chosen to begin her Diamond Jubilee tour at the institution.

The royal visit to Leicester, which will also take in a drive through the city and a visit to its cathedral, will be one of the first times the Duchess of Cambridge has accompanied the Queen on an official engagement without Prince William. The BBC told Professor Shellard it expected a global audience in the "hundreds of millions" for its planned nine-hour coverage of the visit.

But Professor Shellard was unclear why De Montfort had been selected: "We got a rather quaint phone call about four weeks ago asking whether we would mind if Her Majesty came to our campus to start her Jubilee tour. We would love to know the exact reasons, but you are never really told. I would like to think [it is because] we do a lot of community initiatives and there is a bit of a buzz about De Montfort at the moment. Leicester is also a positive symbol of the UK in the 21 century: very diverse and harmonious."

De Montfort was officially requested to provide "colour, vibrancy, enthusiasm and community" for the visit, and launched into a frenzy of preparations.

Planned activities for the royal visitors include a walkabout, a display of traditional dancing by students and locals, and the unveiling of the "inevitable" plaque commemorating the visit. The winner of a competition to design a pair of shoes for the Duchess - officially chosen, for reasons of protocol, by Professor Shellard - will also be announced.

The Duke of Edinburgh will meet staff, students and beneficiaries of De Montfort's Square Mile project, aimed at helping residents in its immediate vicinity. Professor Shellard said the Duke was particularly interested in a robotics club designed to interest local secondary school children in engineering.

Meanwhile, the Queen and the Duchess will attend a fashion show showcasing designs by recent De Montfort graduates. Professor Shellard distributed the 400 tickets for the event by "bursting into classrooms", which had "created some 21st-century Beatlemania" in relation to the Duchess.

The vice-chancellor was not expecting a backlash from anti-royalists, citing a letter from one committed republican acknowledging that the event would "bring enormous benefit to the institution".

Professor Shellard was unable to quantify those benefits, but hoped that the international media interest would drum up more applications from overseas students - particularly useful in light of tighter controls on home student numbers.

"The attention allows us to focus on what we think is distinctive and high quality about De Montfort, particularly in terms of the creative industries," he said.

De Montfort students have even designed and made the suit that an "incredibly excited" Professor Shellard will wear to host the Queen.

"It is a nice, discreet, elegant suit, so when people ask, 'Who is that fashion icon?', they will be talking about me and not the Duchess. Well, in my dreams," he said.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

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