Auckland law graduate wins prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship to Cambridge

04 October 2011


Chris Jenkins, a BCom/LLB(Hons) graduate from The University of Auckland, is one of three New Zealanders awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship to study at Cambridge University next year.

The 23-year-old Howick resident was named as a scholarship recipient after being short-listed with six others for the Woolf Fisher Scholarship programme, established nine years ago.

At Cambridge, he intends to analyse international commercial law and tax policy through a lens of history and economics, with a view to improving New Zealand's current law, ultimately making foreign trade easier, and boosting investment in New Zealand enterprise. Economics was his BCom major at Auckland.

“My research will examine cross-border trade and investment – for example if a contract involving an Italian and a New Zealander breaks down and ends up in court, which country’s law governs, and where should the case be heard? If the case is won in New Zealand, but the defendant's assets are in Italy, can those assets be recovered?

“By critically analysing the law that governs these issues, and by seeking reform that improves certainty and efficiency, we can increase confidence on both sides of the transaction. An updated and streamlined regime would see parties contract more efficiently and more often,” says Chris.

Chris says New Zealand relies on international trade and investment for growth, and believes there is always room to improve the country’s international commercial and tax laws.

“There is no reason why New Zealand cannot lead the way. At Cambridge I look forward to joining the debate on these problems, and perhaps one day contributing to a solution,” he says.

The Howick College junior dux, and Somerville Intermediate and Star of the Sea School former pupil, says the subjects of History, English and Economics have always appealed to him.

“I’ll be addressing commercial law and tax issues by applying history and economics. In some ways the law is a history of arguments. The law is all about how we solve disputes, how we choose to structure a society made up of individuals who rely on one another, but who don't always see eye-to-eye,” says the Russell McVeagh solicitor, who was awarded a scholarship from the firm for his undergraduate studies.

A part-time tutor of contract law at The University of Auckland, when he is not researching or working, Chris goes target shooting with his father and also enjoys tennis and debating. He has had a long-standing involvement in the business case competition programme at The University of Auckland Business School, where he learnt that ideas become powerful only when they are presented in a way that can be understood and when they can be translated into action. He says the programme provided valuable experience in working with other people: “It taught me when to show leadership, when to be loyal, and when to be critical.”

Last year he travelled to India to explore Rajasthan’s palaces and the country’s mountains and deserts. He says a highlight of the trip was a visit to the historic library at India’s old government house, Viceregal Lodge, where he couldn’t resist delving into a little legal research, just for fun.

While he enjoys travel and is looking forward to learning from different minds and being exposed to new ideas, Chris says ultimately he intends to return home to work and share his knowledge with fellow Kiwis.

The Woolf Fisher Trust offers up to three scholarships each year tenable at the University of Cambridge, for three or four years of post graduate research leading to a doctoral degree.

The scholarships will be taken up in October 2012 and provide each recipient with full college and university fees and a living allowance. The annual value of each scholarship is close to $100,000.

The scholars were shortlisted, interviewed and selected by the trustees of the Woolf Fisher Trust for their outstanding academic abilities and as potential leaders. They possess many of the qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher and Paykel; integrity, leadership, boldness of vision and exceptional zeal, keenness and capacity for work.

The Trustees hope that the Woolf Fisher Scholars will make a long-term commitment to New Zealand and that they will become leaders in their fields.

Sir Noel Robinson, the Trust’s chairman, says this year’s shortlist reflects an outstanding calibre of scholars.

“The quality of our candidates is just so high now. We believe they each have the potential to take up leadership roles in New Zealand, and there’s no reason why all three students couldn’t become world leaders in their own right. 

Sir Noel says the challenge now, is to ensure the scholars will return to New Zealand after their studies.

“We just hope we see them back in New Zealand as their knowledge will be at the forefront of the world’s emerging technologies and discoveries. Our country has a responsibility to ensure our best brains can come back home,” he said.

The Woolf Fisher Trust invests almost $1 million each year in their scholarship programme, with 11 New Zealanders currently studying at either the University of Oxford or Cambridge.