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Region’s successes to inspire next generation at graduation

A host of notable East Anglia locals and UEA alumni, including international rugby union referee Wayne Barnes and Love Actually producer Debra Hayward, will be named honorary graduates at The University of East Anglia in July.

Other inspirational names from the worlds of business, literature, science and charity will attend UEA’s week of graduation ceremonies, speaking to graduating students about their own careers, lives and successes and offering words of advice as they leave university.

Of the nineteen Honorary Degree recipients, seven are former UEA students and eight more are from, or have strong ties to, the region. These include former Lord Mayor of Norwich Brenda Arthur, Chief Executive of Aldeburgh Music Roger Wright, and UEA graduates Esther Mujawayo, a refugee therapy expert and internationally acclaimed author Abraham Peck.

UEA graduation ceremonies will take place from 18-22 July, with more than 4,000 students graduating and joining the university’s 120,000 existing alumni.

Honorary degrees are given each year by the University to honour those who have made an impact in fields such as the arts, science and civil society.

UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson said: “We take great pride in honouring those who make valuable and notable contributions to society alongside our newest cohort of graduating students and it’s always a delight to hear the words of wisdom they can impart at our graduation ceremonies.”


The full list of honorary graduates:

Wayne Barnes is a UEA graduate, barrister and international rugby union referee who has been involved in the last three Rugby World Cups and regularly officiates in European and Aviva Premiership games. He is the most capped English referee of all time.

He became a full time referee in 2005 and, at the age of 25, was the youngest ever to be appointed to the Rugby Football Union’s Professional Referee Unit.

Wayne is an experienced criminal barrister based at Fulcrum Chambers in the Shard, London, and has been involved in cases of bribery and corruption, commercial fraud and money laundering. 

He said: "I had the time of my life studying at UEA and I have so many wonderful memories and lifelong friends from my years in Norwich. I never imagined that I would ever receive such a prestigious honour and I am surprised, humbled and grateful in equal measure to receive it.”

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Debra Hayward launched her production company Monumental Pictures with longtime friend and producing partner Alison Owen (Suffragette) in September 2014. Prior to that, as head of film at Working Title Films UK, Hayward was creatively responsible for their entire slate of feature films and served as executive producer on their hit movies including About a Boy, Bridget Joness Diary, Love Actually, Frost/Nixon, Elizabeth and Pride & Prejudice

Born in Liverpool, Debra now lives in Norfolk. In 2011 Hayward became an independent producer, producing the Oscar award winning musical Les Misérables. She most recently produced Bridget Jones’s Baby, the third in the multi-award winning franchise, due for release in September. Her success followed a degree in Film Studies at London Metropolitan University (formerly City of London Polytechnic).

Debra Hayward will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Born in 1958 in Rwanda, Esther Mujawayo is a world-known expert in the field of refugee trauma-therapy. She gained a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from UEA 1997, after escaping the 1994 Rwandan Genocide which saw Esther lose many relatives.

She is the author of several books and founder of the Association of Widows of the Rwandan Genocide. She was a speaker at the Geneva summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Esther Mujawayo will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


UEA graduate, professor Abraham Peck, is an internationally acclaimed author, professor, human rights activist, administrator and scholar with a long and distinguished career in Jewish Studies. 

Prof Peck was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany in 1946 to parents who had both survived the Holocaust.

He has a background in management, fund-raising, museum direction, grant-writing, teaching, editing and interreligious and interethnic dialogue. 

Fluent in German and Yiddish, he received a Masters’ in Philosophy from UEA in 1977. His extensive career history includes posts as director of The Academic Council for Post-Holocaust Christian Jewish, and Islamic Studies at the University of Southern Maine, founding director and visiting professor in Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies at the University of Maine at Augusta and executive director of the Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas.

He has published widely on the subject of the Holocaust including a well-known collection The Holocaust and History (co-edited with Michael Berenbaum, 1998), The German-Jewish Legacy in America, 1938-1988: From Bildung to the Bill of Rights (1989) and Unsere Stunde Null: Deutsche und Juden nach 1945 in 2006, published in English in 2014 under the title Unwanted Legacies

He was special adviser to Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the first chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

He said: “The UEA experience was life changing for a young, newly married American student. It allowed me to meet and work with internationally acclaimed scholars and begin almost at once a rigorous research agenda in numerous archives in both West and East Germany and in England.”

Abraham Peck will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Lord Karan Bilimoria is the founder of Cobra Beer and chairman of the Cobra Beer Partnership Limited and of Molson Coors Cobra India, both joint ventures with the global brewing company, Molson Coors.

In 2006, Karan Bilimoria was appointed the Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, making him the first ever Zoroastrian Parsi to sit in the House of Lords, and he is the founding chairman of the UK - India Business Council, a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, senior non-executive director of the Booker Group PLC and chancellor of the University of Birmingham.   Lord Bilimoria is also chairman of the Advisory Board of the Judge Business School, Cambridge University, and president of the UK Council for International Students Affairs (UKCISA).

He qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young and graduated in law from the University of Cambridge.

Following an introduction with UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson in India, Lord Bilimoria opened UEA’s new Enterprise Centre building in October 2015.

He said: “It was a privilege to open the impressive Enterprise Centre at UEA and I have been able to see first-hand why UEA is one of the UK’s top universities.  It is such an honour and privilege to receive an Honorary Doctorate and I am truly humbled.”

Lord Karan Bilimoria will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Brenda Arthur, Lord Mayor of Norwich until May this year, has lived and worked in Norwich since 1969.

She initially trained as a scientist, working at the Food Research Institute before becoming a community and youth worker for Norwich City Council and then taking on a role at City Hall promoting activities for the retired.

In 1990, she became chief executive of Age Concern Norwich, a post which she held for 17 years, before her retirement in 2007.

She served as the city’s Sheriff in 2005/6, before becoming a city councillor for University ward in 2008. She originally held the portfolio for housing and adult services, but succeeded Steve Morphew as leader in 2011. She was leader of the Labour-controlled city council from May 2011 until becoming Lord Mayor in 2015.

She said: “I was surprised and delighted to be given this honour. I would like to think this is in recognition of my work with individuals, communities and organisations over many years to ensure Norwich remains a fine city in which to work live and play. It is a privilege to join the ranks of others who have received honorary degrees from UEA.”

Brenda Arthur will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Ali Smith is an award-winning Scottish writer and was the 2012/13 UEA UNESCO City of Literature Visiting Professor. In 2007 Ali was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and she was awarded a CBE in the 2015 New Year Honours, for services to literature. She writes short stories and novels and she works experimentally across all the written forms.  

She was guest director of Brighton Festival in 2015, she spoke at UEA’s Spring Literary Festival 2015 discussing her novel How to be Both, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and the Folio Prize and won the Costa Novel award, the Goldsmith's Prize and the Bailey's Women's Prize for fiction.

Ali said: “I'm honoured and delighted to be being given this very lovely unexpected gift by UEA, where I've often taught over the last couple of decades, where I've always been welcomed and felt at home, and where I've long admired the very real realisation of potential that happens between the teaching and the students.”

Ali Smith will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


UEA graduate Rob Varley is the chief executive of the Met Office. He joined the Met Office over 30 years ago as a weather forecaster, and has been a director there since 2007, first as government services director and then as operations and services director. In 2014 he was appointed chief executive, and in 2015 was elected to the Executive Council of the World Met. Organisation. He is also president of Eumetnet, representing the National Met. Services of Europe.

Rob spent ten years teaching meteorology at the Met Office College, and maintains a keen interest in encouraging young scientists. The Met Office has an award winning schools outreach programme, and in recent years Rob has returned to UEA to speak to undergraduate students.

On being invited to receive an honorary degree Rob said: “It is a great honour to be recognised in this way. My undergraduate studies at UEA were a great foundation for my career at the Met Office, and I look forward to working with the University to encourage aspiring scientists in the future.”

Rob Varley will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Dr Hugh Milroy, a former RAF Wing Commander and Gulf war veteran who served for 17 years, has been chief executive of Veterans Aid since 2005. He was awarded an OBE in 2012 in recognition of his outstanding work on behalf of homeless ex-servicemen and women.

Dr Milroy took over as head of Veterans Aid after a 17-year career as an RAF officer during which time he was the final station commander of RAF Swanton Morley, near Dereham, Norfolk. His youngest daughter Sophie was born in Norwich and he still maintains a strong East Anglian connection.

His concerns about the lack of research about homelessness among veterans led him to study at UEA for a Masters and PhD in Social Work in 2000. His MA looked at the effect of military service on armed forces personnel and families in general, while research for his PhD was conducted among street homeless veterans.

Hugh has transformed Veterans Aid to become the leading UK charity for veterans in crisis, drawing on both his distinguished service career and his research at UEA.

In addition to receiving the honorary hoctorate, Dr Milroy has also just been made an Honorary Visiting Fellow in the School of Social Work.  He said: “I am both delighted and honoured to become an Honorary Visiting Fellow within a School that I regard very much as my academic ‘home’. The school has a long history of being at the very pinnacle of social work training and research and it is very exciting for me to become involved in such a practical way.

“Using my knowledge and considerable experience in the field to enhance the work of the School is something that I regard as vital because veterans and their families comprise a significant part of the nation. It is inevitable therefore that social workers will be involved with them, but the world of veterans in the UK is something that is frequently mythologised and exaggerated within the media, health service, criminal justice system, charitable sector and social care service. It is vital that our future social work leaders have a sound working knowledge of facts and issues rather than folklore.”

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Roger Wright was appointed chief executive of Aldeburgh Music in 2014. His lengthy career in music and broadcasting has included working as Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms. He received the CBE in 2015 for services to music

Roger gave the Arthur Batchelor lecture at UEA in March 2015 where he gave insight into the music and arts world, and outlined his vision for the future of Aldeburgh Music and Snape Maltings, one of the UK’s most significant music centres and an East Anglian cultural landmark.

Roger Wright said “I am delighted to receive this honorary degree. Aldeburgh Music has long standing links with UEA and both institutions have international stature whilst being rooted in East Anglia. My advice to students on graduating would be to remain open to new ideas and face your exciting challenges ahead with energy, generosity and good humour.”

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Bahram Bekhradnia became the first director of the Higher Education Policy Institute on its creation on 1 November 2002 – a respected and highly referenced Higher Education think tank, advising governments in more than 25 different countries.

Since becoming HEPI’s first President in January 2014, Bahram has been instrumental in building and establishing that reputation.

Before establishing HEPI he has been director of Policy for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) since its formation in 1992. Before joining the Funding Council, he spent his career in the Department of Education and Science.

Bahram said: “I was delighted to be asked by the University of East Anglia to accept an honorary degree, not least because UEA is a university I have long and greatly admired. It is unique among English universities being extremely successful at research, but at the same time attaching such importance to undergraduate education. It provides a model for other universities, and I am proud now to be associated with the University.

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Prof David Haslam CBE is a British medical doctor and administrator, who is currently the chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the independent organisation which produces guidance on quality and on cost-effective treatments for the NHS.

David was formerly a GP in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, and lived in the region for nearly 40 years. His distinguished career has seen him hold the roles of both chair and president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and he is also a former president of the British Medical Association, and adviser to the Care Quality Commission.

David has been actively supportive of the establishment and development of the Norwich Medical School at UEA through his personal support for lead GPs and through general professional promotion and encouragement of GPs in the region becoming involved in the academic side of general practice. He has recently taken evidence from UEA publications and reconsidered both the way NICE recommendations are made for primary care health settings and for patients with co-occurring diseases.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to be recognised by the University of East Anglia in this way.  From its foundation, the Norwich Medical School has had a vitally important role in the development of medicine in this region, and it has been an absolute pleasure to have been able to support its work”.

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science.


Prof Judith A K Howard CBE, FRS is currently a research professor in Chemistry at Durham University. She has served on the Royal Society Council twice and numerous other committees of the Society and she was a Royal Society Vice President from 2004-5.

Judith was a DPhil student at Oxford in the late 1960s, with professor Dorothy C Hodgkin, OM - the UK’s only female Nobel Prize winner (1964). She is now an honorary fellow of her old college, Somerville.

She is internationally noted for innovative instrument development at Durham and she has received more than £20 million of research funding since 1991.  She is a regular research lecturer and plenary speaker, appearing at hundreds of conferences around the world since 1976, and has more than 1100 journal articles published. She has trained more than 50 PhD and Masters level students at Durham and welcomed senior post-doctoral co-workers from across the globe.

Judith said: ''I feel most honoured and  I am truly delighted to be receiving this Honorary Doctorate from the University of East Anglia, where I have known colleagues for many years.  I look forward to becoming one of the University's alumni and interacting further with the University’.

She will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science.


Businessman Anthony Habgood is chairman of the court, Bank of England since 2014, chairman of RELX Group since 2009 and chairman of Preqin since 2011.  He is also a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University.

Educated at Norfolk’s Gresham’s School, he is a graduate in economics from Cambridge University and Carnegie Mellon University. Anthony has worked in Boston, Tokyo, Munich and London holding a number of chief executive and chairman positions at multinational companies including Bunzl Plc and Whitbread Plc.

He was senior non-executive director of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust from 2006 until March 2013, when he became chair of Norwich Research Park LLP.

Anthony said: “It’s an honour to receive this honorary degree from UEA. UEA is one of the leading institutions founded in the latter half of the last century, and it is a privilege to be associated with it.”

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


David Tibble is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who studied at UEA in the 1970s.

David generously funds UEA’s Medical Aspirations programme. Launched as a pilot in 2010, the course offers 30 spaces a year to 16 and 17 year-olds on a three-day residential course based on learning about the medical profession. It includes guaranteed interviews for places at the Norwich Medical School for those who meet the academic criteria.

Since the programme launched, David has funded 13 scholarships to UEA’s Norwich Medical School, worth between 50-100% of full course fees.

He has previously served as finance director for the Hays Group Plc and president and chief executive officer of WNS Limited and is a trustee of the Norfolk based Inspiration trust chain of academy schools.

David said: “I am delighted to contribute something back to the University and community that generously offered me a university place some 40 years ago. This doctorate is highly appreciated but not as much as the enjoyment of helping the next generation of bright schoolchildren and students in East Anglia.”

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Mark Cocker, a graduate of UEA, is a prize-winning naturalist, author, biographer, columnist and reviewer. His best known work is Birds Britannica while his most successful is Crow Country. His works include a study of travel writing and a history of European destruction of tribal peoples. Mark lives and works in Norfolk. His latest work is Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet.

Mark said: “I am hugely honoured and see it as the finest and most significant formal acknowledgment I have received for my work in 30 years.”

Mark will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.


Prof Cheryll Tickle, a world-leading scientist known for her work in developmental biology. She was a trustee director of The Genome Analysis Centre on the Norwich Research Park for the first three years of its inception and a guiding hand in the establishment of the Institute.

Cheryll is known as a great communicator of science and a generous mentor who has influenced and fostered the careers of many colleagues and peers. Many of her trainees have gone on to become leading scientists themselves in the UK, Europe, the US and Asia.

She said: “I feel very privileged to be receiving an honorary degree. There has been remarkable progress in developmental biology over the last 30 years or so. I would like to think that the award of this degree celebrates the advances of the whole field not just my own contributions. 

Receiving the degree is also a particular pleasure as I have close associations with the University through serving on the Board of Trustees during the establishment of The Genome Analysis Centre on the Norwich Research Park.”

She will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science.


Dr Robin Jackson was chief executive and secretary of the British Academy from 2006 to 2015, where he led the promotion and development of the humanities and social sciences. His career included a number of roles in Higher Education policy.

He was acting director of Corporate Resources and regional consultant for London at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and previously policy adviser (Research and Knowledge Transfer) at Universities UK, and assistant director (Quality Development) at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Robin is a graduate in classics at Oxford and has a PhD in ancient philosophy from Princeton University. He taught in the USA and for many years in Australia, where he was Seymour Reader in classics at Melbourne University and acting master at Ormond College. His publications include Olympiodorus: Commentary on Plato's Gorgias (co-authored Brill, 1998), and various policy reports on research and on the humanities and social sciences. He was awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to scholarship. He lives in Norfolk.

He said: "This award is welcome from a fine university that clearly understands the value of the humanities and social sciences".

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science.


UEA graduate Billy Albert Che Kin Kan is chairman and chief executive officer of China LNG Group.

China LNG Group started in financial services and property and then expanded into energy by investing in liquid natural gas facilities. Business partners include state-run Chinese oil and gas giant CNOOC. The company's name was changed from Artel Solutions in 2014.

He formerly worked as an executive at Deloitte and KPMG.

He said: “To be or not to be is not a question, it is a matter of accepting the things you cannot change but change the things that you can. For an ordinary student being awarded an honorable doctorate degree is so unlikely as a poor dreamer making it to the Forbes List of The World's Billionaires, but it can happen!

Billy Kan will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.


Graduate advice

Some of the honorary graduates also offered words of advice to the students who will be graduating in the summer.


Wayne Barnes
“The people who you graduate with this summer may end up being your closest friends for the rest of your lives. You will have shared so many experiences, memories and emotions with each other that you will always have a special bond. If you promise yourself one thing today, it should be to ensure that you continue to build on those friendships, making new memories and supporting each other as you embark on the next step of your journey.”

Abraham Peck
“George Bernard Shaw once wrote, ‘The reasonable man or woman adapts to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to oneself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man or woman.’ I hope you will join the ranks of the unreasonable. Do not look at the world as a just place. It cannot be with the violence, inequality and suffering we see on a daily basis.”

Lord Bilimoria
“In the United States, graduation ceremonies are often called commencement ceremonies, as graduating signifies the start of your career and the start of the rest of your life.  Throughout your career, what will make the difference is your attitude.  Our vision at Cobra is to aspire and achieve, against all odds, with integrity.  It is a vision that has served me well and I hope that you are all able to emulate it too.”

Brenda Arthur
“Not all young people are as lucky as you or I have been, some struggle to even go to school some because their families live in poverty others because they lack a loving home or have little or no confidence or aspirations. You have been fortunate to have huge opportunities and have seized them so I would say to you be proud of your achievements.  And as you go out into the world and start to shape and change it for the better be true to yourself, tenacious and above all thoughtful towards others – enjoy your life and live it to the full.”

Ali Smith
“It comes in the form of a six word long short story: ‘In the end, everything simply began.’”

Rob Varley
“I’m a passionate believer in life-long learning. So don’t think that your education is over now you’ve graduated: learning enriches life, so seize every opportunity to learn, grow and develop in everything you do.”

Bahram Bekhradnia
“If there is one thing in your university experience should have taught you it is that hard work pays off – the tortoise doesn't always win, but you'd be surprised how often she does.”

Anthony Habgood
“Aim high, ride your luck, and most of all enjoy your working life.”

David Tibble
“Whatever field of employment you enter do it enthusiastically and develop that attitude even if it is a temporary role until you get the role you want."

Billy Albert Che Kin Kan
“The one bit of advice I would like to offer to students graduating this summer is: Life is an endless learning journey, where failure is a norm, but it really is the beginning to success as long as you do not give up and keep believing in your dreams.”