I have lived in or near Cambridge for over 30 years, and in the city centre just a few yards from Jesus Green for the last 10 of those. My involvement with the University dates from my application to read an MPhil degree there in 1996 (my earlier degrees being from Edinburgh and St Andrews). I was accepted into Pembroke College for the one-year degree, which was an economics degree done in the Department of Land Economy. Since I was President of the Adam Smith Institute with some public profile, this did not pass unnoticed in either the college or the department.
I graduated with the MPhil in 1997, having submitted a thesis on Pension Fund Investment in Property, 1980-1995. I sought to discover why property, which constituted 18.5% of pension fund portfolios in 1980, had declined to only 5% by 1995. I mailed a questionnaire to the big fund managers, and analyzed the results of 100 responses. My conclusion was that property, an investment counter-cyclical to equities and an inflation hedge, had many disadvantages, being difficult to transfer rapidly (‘sticky’) and difficult to break into small units (‘lumpy’). Two things occurred which undermined it. Exchange controls were ended in 1979, giving access to foreign investments, and inflation-proof gilts, introduced in 1981, both gave fund managers access to investments which did more easily what property did.
After graduation I retained my contacts with Pembroke, dining at high table and formal hall occasionally. I took the lead in establishing in 2009 the Adam Smith Fellowship in Political Economy there. I kept my links with members of the department, too, and in 2010 I was appointed as Senior Visiting Fellow in Land Economy. This involves me in giving a few lectures during the year on aspects of Political Economy.
My links with University societies have deepened, too. I am invited regularly to debate at the Cambridge Union and to speak to college politics and economics societies, usually on topics relating to my work at the Adam Smith Institute. The University also offers a dazzling array of cultural activities, and I often attend public lectures, choral concerts, dramatic productions and organ recitals, and visit some of the University exhibitions.
I am involved with Cambridge University Spaceflight’s project to send a balloon-launched rocket into space, and to develop the innovative telemetry to facilitate this.
I also like going to formal dinners in various colleges, and greatly enjoy attending student society receptions, dinners, and garden parties in the Easter (summer) term. I have many friends in Cambridge and enjoy its social, as well as its academic, life.