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Durham University

Ceremonies Unit

Honorary Degrees

At certain Congregation ceremonies the University awards honorary degrees to candidates who have been nominated by University staff and approved by Senate. During the ceremony a speech (oration) of the life and work of the graduand is presented prior to conferring the award.

If you would like someone to be considered for an honorary award, view the nomination information.


The following honorary degrees will be awarded at Winter Congregation 2020

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, Doctor of Divinity on Thursday 9 January at 10am

John Sentamu has served as Archbishop of York for nearly 15 years, challenging the Church and wider society on issues of poverty, racism, social integration, and the development of young people. Born in Uganda, he was educated by English missionaries and practiced Law before being forced to flee to the UK in 1974. He has an extraordinary ability to connect with people, as recognised in his nomination and being awarded Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007. As a Visitor at St John’s College, Durham University, he has been a source of encouragement and support for students and the College itself.

Sir Kevan Collins, Doctor of Letters on Thursday 9 January at 3pm

A public servant for over 30 years, Sir Kevan was appointed first Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, in 2011. Within 18 months, the EEF was named as the UK Government’s ‘what works’ centre for education. Durham University has worked closely with the EEF, including on its Teaching and Learning Toolkit. Sir Kevan has visited the University many times, particularly since the establishment of the Primary Literacy Campaign, based at our School of Education. He was knighted for his services to education in 2015.

Mr Chris Kelly, Doctor of Civil Law on Friday 10 January at 10am

Having held many prestigious roles in the world of rugby, Chris Kelly was appointed President of the Rugby Football Union in 2018. He studied at Hatfield College, Durham University, in the 1970s, representing the University’s First XV rugby team for four years, he was captain in the centenary season in 1975. He went onto play for Harlequins before retiring due to injury and taking up coaching. He taught at Epsom College and Mill Hill School before serving as Headmaster of St John’s Preparatory School, Northwood, for 20 years. He has maintained strong links with the University, becoming a valued mentor for many young athletes.

Ms Barbara Vest, Doctor of Science on Friday 10 January at 12noon

Barbara Vest has enjoyed a long and successful career in the power industry, including with Northern Electric, Yorkshire Electricity, RWE and Gaz de France ESS. She is a Special Adviser to the trade association Energy UK, a member of the UK Government’s Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage Cost Challenge Task Force, Chairs the National Grid Joint European Stakeholder Group and serves as an Executive Council member of the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies. She is an active and valued member of the Advisory Board of the University’s Durham Energy Institute and has selflessly devoted much time to supporting students and early career researchers.