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Honorary degrees

Distinguished figures receive honorary degrees

Published on: 19 July 2024

Outstanding individuals have been recognised with honorary degrees from Newcastle University.

Talents and achievements

Professor Chris Day, Vice Chancellor and President of Newcastle University said: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome such dedicated and distinguished figures into our University community.  Their honorary degrees recognise their considerable talents and achievements in their respective fields.”

Professor Jacinta Ruru MNZM

Professor Jacinta Ruru MNZM

The first ever Māori professor of law, Distinguished Professor Jacinta Ruru is a leader in indigenous people’s rights and indigenous laws. Her particular focus is how law and policy can better enable Māori to contribute towards caring for, owning, managing and governing lands and waters. Professor Ruru is also an expert on decolonisation of New Zealand’s research sector and legal education. 

The inaugural Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Māori, University of Otago, was made an Honorary Doctor of Laws at a ceremony on Tuesday 9 July.

"I’m hugely honoured to be receiving this honorary doctorate today," said Professor Ruru. "It is an enormous privilege to be at this prestigious university on the other side of the world to my home country, and it means so much to me and my family, and all that I have worked for, to receive this honour.  It’s amazing to join with those graduating today, to celebrate our commitment and success in pursuing legal education."


Lord Vaizey of Didcot

Lord Vaizey of Didcot was the longest serving Minister for Culture since the post was created in 1964. During his time in office, he upheld the policy of free entry to the UK’s national museums, and during his tenure the Treasury introduced tax credits for theatre, orchestra and museums. He is a Visiting Professor of Practice at Newcastle University Business School and chaired the strategic advisory board of Creative Fuse North East.

The politician, media columnist, political commentator and barrister, was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law.

"Through Creative Fuse North East, I saw first-hand how effective Newcastle University has been in advancing the creative industries and the arts in the North East," Lord Vaizey said. "To have my work and association with the University recognised in this way really is a huge honour."


Lord Vaizey of Didcot

Andrew Haldane MBE

The former Chief Economist at the Bank of England and a member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, Andrew Haldane was the Government’s Permanent Secretary for Levelling Up from September 2021 to March 2022. He is co-founder and President of the Pro Bono-Economics charity, which strives to encourage economists to aid charities on a voluntary basis.

The Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts was made an Honorary Doctor of Science at a ceremony on Friday 12 July.

“As someone born in the North East and who continues to champion the region, I am absolutely thrilled to be honoured by the University of Newcastle," Andrew Haldane said. "They are one of the jewels in the crown of the North East, and their success will be crucial in driving the region’s success. It is great to be able to contribute to that success.”


Andrew Haldane MBE

Sir Jeremy Darroch

Sir Jeremy, Executive Chairman of Sky was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law on 16 July.

He was Chief Executive Officer of Sky from December 2007 until becoming executive chairman in January 2021. He was instrumental in the creation of the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, which is widely acknowledged to have raised awareness of plastics pollution in all the world’s oceans and the resultant damage to the global natural ecosystem.

Sir Jeremy said: “I feel very honoured and privileged to receive this award. Newcastle is my home town, and this has a special resonance for me. The University is an institution that I’ve looked up to for a long period of time and I’m delighted to be here today.

“The big issue for us at Sky was to take a leadership position on the environment, in particular the oceans and to put a focus on ocean pollution. The oceans are so important, they are fundamental to a healthy planet in the long term. The bigger picture that we saw at Sky, and the work that we did around the environment, is certainly one of the highlights of my career.”   

“The advice I would give to my younger self would be ‘find your passion and go for it as hard as you can’”, added Sir Jeremy.

Sir Jeremy Darroch
Sir Jeremy Darroch

Catrina McHugh MBE

Driven by a passionate belief that great theatre can bring about social change, Catrina McHugh co-founded Open Clasp in 1998. This North East-based multi award-winning women’s theatre company collaborates with women on the margins of society to create bold and urgent theatre for personal, social, and political change. 

McHugh has dedicated her professional life to making ground-breaking theatre that matters and changes lives for the better. Her philosophy is written into the DNA of Open Clasp, which seeks to ‘Change the World – one play at a time’.

The Joint Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Open Clasp Theatre Company was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters at a ceremony on Thursday 18 July.

"I feel so honoured on behalf of the thousands of women who put their trust in Open Clasp over the past 26 years," Catrina McHugh said. "Women have gathered in youth and community centres and prisons across the UK, Ireland, and New York, as well as more recently with the New Zealand Sex Workers' Collective. And so this degree honours them."


Catrina McHugh MBE

Davina McCall MBE

Davina McCall has been a household name for over 20 years, presenting some of the most popular television shows in the UK. More recently, she has leveraged her successful career in television to become a voice for women's health, helping to break down the stigma surrounding menopause by sharing her own personal journey and encouraging women to seek help and support.

She was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law at a ceremony on Thursday 18 July. 

She said: "It really has been a great honour to get this degree. I feel a bit of a fraud, having seen how much work my daughter has put into her four year degree and I swan in and get one.

“But I am particularly chuffed that it is given to me for my work around women’s health. I will continue to raise awareness and campaign for education and more research for as long as I am breathing. I have rather fallen in love with Newcastle. Thank you so much."


Davina McCall in academic robes sitting at a desk
Davina McCall MBE

Professor Philip Jones

The University of East Anglia Climatologist was made an Honorary Doctor of Science on 19 July.

One of the world’s most prominent figures in climate research, and a Newcastle University graduate (MSc and PhD), Professor Philip Jones is perhaps best known for the time series of hemispheric and global surface temperatures, which he helps to update monthly. In 2009 he also gained notoriety for ‘ClimateGate’ when research from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, where he was Head at the time, was leaked and used by climate-change deniers who attempted to discredit the data.

Professor Jones said: "I really enjoyed my years in Newcastle in the 1970s as a postgraduate student, so I feel very honoured to be awarded this honorary degree almost 50 years later. My time at Newcastle prepared me for my research career which is most well-known for calculating the global temperature average. This average has risen by 1 degree Celsius during my career and this change is impacting the climate everywhere. "

Professor Philip Jones

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