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A montage of Durham University's honorary graduates

Leading figures from the fields of diplomacy, music and local government will be celebrated by the University with the award of honorary degrees this winter.

First honorary degrees of 2024

Honorary graduates who will be recognised for their outstanding achievements are:

  • County Durham-born singer Dame Sarah Connolly DBE, a celebrated mezzo-soprano who was recently awarded the King's Medal for Music for the major influence she has had on the musical life of the nation. Dame Sarah will become a Doctor of Music. 

  • The Lord Darroch of Kew and St Mawes KCMG (Kim Darroch), a Durham alumnus and former National Security Adviser, UK Ambassador to the European Union and UK Ambassador to the USA, who will be made a Doctor of Letters. 

  • Alison Gowman, Alderman of the City of London Corporation and a Durham alumna, who will become a Doctor of Civil Law. 

  • Dr Desra Percaya, Indonesian Ambassador to the UK and a Durham alumnus, who also becomes a Doctor of Civil Law. 

They will be the University’s first honorary degree recipients of 2024 and will be presented during our Winter Congregation ceremonies, to be held in the historic setting of Durham Cathedral, on 4 and 5 January.

Future honorary graduates

Other confirmed honorary degree recipients, who the University plans to recognise at future ceremonies, include County-Durham born television presenter Matt Baker, botanist and advocate for plant conservation Dr Margaret Bradshaw and renowned author and journalist Hunter Davies.

Future recipients will also include indigenous human rights advocate Dr Dalee Sambo Dorough and Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, whose award-winning social enterprise, Stemettes, has helped tens of thousands of girls, young women and non-binary young people realise their potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at Oxford University, and businessman James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson Group, will also be honoured.

An inspiration to our students

Our honorary graduates receive their degrees alongside thousands of the University’s students, from more than 130 countries, as they officially graduate from the University which holds its Congregation ceremonies in both the winter and summer.

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, said: "Our honorary graduates are an exceptionally distinguished group of people who exemplify the highest levels of achievement in their spheres of activity. 

"The contributions they have made have improved, enriched and enhanced the lives of so many others and the world around them. They will rightly act as an inspiration to our students as they set out on their own paths into the world.

“We look forward to celebrating our honorary degree recipients alongside the achievements of our graduating students.”   

Find out more

  • Durham is a World Top 100 University according to the QS World University Rankings 2024. Discover more about us.

  • Read Durham Law School's article on the honorary degrees for Alison Gowman and Dr Desra Percaya.

Main picture (L-R): Dame Sarah Connolly DBE, The Lord Darroch of Kew and St Mawes KCMG (Kim Darroch), Alison Gowman, Dr Desra Percaya.