Durham awards 76.5% of honorary degrees to men


Palatinate has found that, between 2009 and 2019, only 23.5% of honorary degrees awarded by Durham went to women.

On two occasions, in 2010 and 2016, the number of degrees awarded to women was just a sixth of those awarded to men.

The best year for equal numbers of degrees was 2018, when there were four degrees awarded to women, compared to six awarded to men.

The 23.5% figure of the last ten years is a slight improvement on the previous 58 years, when females received an average of just under 20% of all honorary degrees awarded.

This comes after four honorary degrees were awarded during the Winter Graduation season earlier this month.

The recipients were the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, the educationist, Sir Kevan Collins, the rugby coach and mentor, Chris Kelly, and the energy specialist, Barbara Vest.

In response to receiving his award, Dr Sentamu said that “it is a privilege to accept this Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity – what esteemed company I will be joining.

“I pray for all the Graduands as they celebrate their hard work and achievements and that the next stage of their journeys will bring fulfilment and joy. Every blessing.”

Mr Kelly, who studied at Hatfield College in the 1970s, said that the award left him “surprised, excited and honoured.”

Similarly, Ms Vest, a member of the Durham Energy Institute, said that she was “still in shock to be considered for such a prestigious award.”

Sir Collins, who was previously the CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving attainment for poor students, said that “I am honoured to receive this award and deeply grateful for the support I have received throughout my career.”

Honorary degrees are awarded by the university on the basis of nominations made by staff, and these cases can be strengthened by support of a department or college. Nominations are then judged by the Senate Advisory Panel.

Durham awards honorary degrees in recognition of “long and exemplary service of national and international importance.”

Previous recipients of honorary degrees include Durham alumnus Jeremy Vine (2012) and Gabby Logan (2015), as well as the fiction writer Philip Pull- man (2012).

Artemis Irvine, who is Chair of St Cuthbert’s Feminist Society, has said that the statistics are “disappointing but not surprising considering the University’s track record when it comes to recognising, celebrating and rewarding the achievements of women.”

She continued: “Obviously, female students will continue to achieve incredibly highly and do great things in their work regard- less of how many women Durham awards with honorary degrees.

“However, it would be nice for the university to set the standard for celebrating women, rather than lagging behind.”

Image: International Office, Durham University

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