Schwarzman Scholars Appoints World-Renowned Scholar to be Executive Director

January 25, 2016

New York and Beijing, January 25, 2016. Schwarzman Scholars, the prestigious Master’s degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, designed to educate future leaders about China, today announced that Sir Nigel Thrift, the former Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick, has been appointed Executive Director. Dr. Thrift is one of the world’s leading human geographers, and previously served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Oxford. In his role as Executive Director of Schwarzman Scholars, Dr. Thrift brings the best of western academic excellence and considerable experience leading academic institutions in the United Kingdom. He is an accomplished academic leader with a unique knowledge of student life and curriculum issues. Based in New York City, Dr. Thrift will also spend considerable time in Beijing. In New York, he will be responsible for global recruitment, marketing and fundraising efforts and serve as an international ambassador for the program.

“We could not be more pleased to announce Sir Nigel’s appointment as Executive Director,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, the program’s founder. “The breadth of his academic and operational experience will serve Schwarzman Scholars well as we prepare to welcome our first class and continue to design and implement programmatic elements that will challenge even the most talented future leaders.  The groundwork having been laid, we now welcome an experienced university leader who can help us execute on a vision and build a program that will stand the test of time.”

“The appointment of Sir Nigel Thrift as Schwarzman Scholars Executive Director is a tremendous gain for the program,” said President Qiu Yong of Tsinghua University. “Dr. Thrift’s strong academic reputation and track record as a leader of a major university sets him apart and we are looking forward to working with him. Together with my colleagues at Tsinghua University, including Dean of Schwarzman Scholars, David Daokui Li, I look forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

“I am very honored to accept the position of Schwarzman Scholars Executive Director,” said Dr. Thrift. “The caliber of this forward-thinking program’s inaugural class, its carefully crafted curriculum and the many unique components designed to enrich student life are a testament to the program’s ambitious vision and the talented people associated with building it.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Steve Schwarzman, President Qiu Yong, Dean David Daokui Li and the talented teams at Tsinghua University and Schwarzman Scholars as we build on that foundation.”

Dr. Thrift is a Fellow of the British Academy. During his career, he has received many academic awards including the Scottish Geographical Society Gold Medal, the Royal Geographical Society Victoria Medal, and Distinguished Scholarship Honors from the Association of American Geographers, as well as honorary degrees form Bristol and Monash Universities. As the Vice-Chancellor and President of Warwick University, he was responsible for a step change in the University’s performance. In particular, he was heavily involved in numerous internationalization initiatives.

Schwarzman Scholars recently announced its inaugural class of 111 scholars.  Drawn from more than 3,000 applicants, the program is one of the most selective in the world with an acceptance rate of 3.7%. This first class is composed of students from 32 countries and 75 universities who will matriculate at Schwarzman College in fall 2016.

About Schwarzman Scholars:

Schwarzman Scholars was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, which was founded in 1902 to promote international understanding and peace, and is designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. Blackstone Co-Founder Stephen A. Schwarzman personally contributed $100 million to the program and is leading a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $350 million from private sources to endow the program in perpetuity. The $450 million endowment will support up to 200 scholars annually from the U.S., China and around the world for a one-year Master’s Degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s most prestigious universities and an indispensable base for the country’s scientific and technological research. Scholars chosen for this highly selective program will live in Beijing for a year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, traveling, and developing a better understanding of China. Admissions opened in the fall of 2015, with the first class of students in residence in 2016. Learn more at, like us on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter at @SchwarzmanOrg.

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Christine Anderson

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