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Now That’s What I Call an Honorary Graduate §9: Stars of Stage and Screen

Continuing his series, Paul Greatrix celebrates notable thespians who have honourary degrees.
This article is more than 6 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Previous highlights of extremely worthy Honorary Degree recipients have included politicians, musicians and sporting superstars. But there are other categories of high achievers too including these stars of stage and screen.

First, we don’t need to go too far back in time to see the Honorary awarded to top actor and former Dr Who David Tennant.

Cheers! Ted Danson was pleased to collect a degree from Carnegie Mellon.


Writer and comedian Armando Ianucci recently collected his third honorary courtesy of the Open University and another famous comedian, Europhile and politician Eddie Izzard, collected his fourth from the same institution.
In similarly comic mode Al Murray was awarded an Honorary by the University of Wolverhampton – for his work on military history rather than his pub landlord act and comedian Reginald D Hunter had a degree bestowed by the University of Lincoln.

Farmer and television presenter Adam Henson picked up his degree at a graduation ceremony at Harper Adams University. Mr Henson (whose work I must admit I am not familiar with) received an honorary degree for services to the public understanding of agriculture.

He said: “Harper Adams is one of the best universities in the country. When I meet young people thinking about getting into that agricultural food supply chain, I tell them that they have to work hard, to study hard. We need bright young people and they need to get themselves to Harper Adams to get the best start.

The very wonderful long-serving TV presenter Maggie Philbin was recognised by Leicester and former children’s TV presenter and ex-Chancellor of Exeter University (and Baroness) Floella Benjamin was honoured by York St John University.

Orla Guerlin, the hugely impressive and exceptionally well travelled BBC correspondent, was awarded an Honorary by the University of York (although Minster FM struggled with the headline) and Tamsin Greig was rather chuffed to be recognised by the University of Birmingham and not just for her work in the Archers:

It is a huge honour to be here and accept this honorary degree. I am very attached to Birmingham – I got my degree here in Drama and Theatre Arts. My first professional acting job was at the Midlands Arts Centre; I play a regular character in The Archers and, in 2006, I was part of the Complete Works festival at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. City of Birmingham and the West Midlands, for all you have given me, I thank you.

Meanwhile, in another Ambridge achievement, over at the University of Derby Patricia Greene, who plays Jill Archer, was also receiving an Honorary. (June Spencer, who plays Peggy Archer, was recognised some years ago by Nottingham.)

It was applause all round as Timothy West picked up a degree from Bristol and David Suchet was honoured by Liverpool.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the remarkable Alan Alda was honoured by the University of Dundee and Michael Palin picked up an Honorary from St Andrews.

And it would be remiss not to recall the achievements of Sir Ken Dodd who was honoured by Liverpool John Moores University in 1997, made an honorary fellow of the University of Chester in 2009 and awarded a Doctor of Letters at Liverpool Hope University in 2010.

Finally, just to show that it is not just the stars who are recognised,
Tony Hall (Lord Hall), Director-General of the BBC, was made a Doctor of Arts in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the profession of journalism, by City University earlier this year.

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