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Durham University News


Durham University honours leading national and international figures

(22 June 2012)

Durham University is honouring several successful national and international figures in media, business, politics and the arts as part of its Summer Congregation celebrations.

Durham’s new Chancellor, world-renowned opera singer Sir Thomas Allen, will present honorary degrees to prominent figures in their fields who are former Durham students or have close links with the University.

Durham University graduate Jeremy Vine, currently a presenter on BBC Radio 2, will receive an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree, while fellow Durham graduate Biddy Baxter, who helped transform BBC children’s TV programme Blue Peter into a national institution, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters.

Two other Durham graduates, Brent Cheshire, a leading figure in the UK Energy Industry, and Charles Wilson, a prominent businessman who has helped revive the fortunes of Marks & Spencer and Booker Ltd, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science and an honorary Doctor of Civil Law respectively.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters, while John Rutter, a national figure in choral music who first came to notice as a composer and arranger of Christmas carols, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Music.

An honorary Master of Science will also go to former Sunderland builder Gary Fildes, whose passion for astronomy led to the development of the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland where he is now Director.

In addition, best-selling author Philip Pullman and the artist David Inshaw will both receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters as part of the celebrations to mark Sir Thomas’s installation as Chancellor.

They are being honoured alongside thousands of students who will be graduating from Durham University in subjects across the sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities during the Congregation ceremonies held at Durham Cathedral.

Durham is ranked as a World Top-100 university and is the third highest broad-subject university in the UK in three major league tables.

The University was ranked 15th globally for employer reputation in the 2011 QS World University League Rankings after an extensive survey of 17,000 blue-chip organisations across the world ranked the quality and demand for Durham's graduates ahead of other leading institutions in the UK, North America and East Asia.

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “All of our honorary degree recipients have made outstanding contributions in their chosen fields and are a real example to our students of what can be achieved with drive, determination and skill.

“Our students benefit from research-led teaching, delivered by some of the world’s finest academics, and a truly unique student experience providing opportunities through our Colleges, sport, societies and outreach to develop key skills such as teamwork, leadership and critical thinking.

“Durham’s graduates are among the most sought-after in the world and as our current graduates set off on their own journeys I am sure they will draw inspiration from the success of our honorary graduates.”

* Members of the public are invited to attend the special Congregation ceremony to celebrate the installation of Sir Thomas Allen as 12th Chancellor of Durham University at 10.30am on Tuesday, June 26, in Durham Cathedral.

Those who would like to attend should register for free tickets via this link: or call 0191 334 2887.

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