Honorary graduates receive degrees at Oxford Brookes University

Honorary graduates receive degrees at Oxford Brookes University

Nine inspirational honorary graduates will join Oxford Brookes University students in receiving degrees at graduation ceremonies this month (19-28 May 2022).

Recipients of these special accolades are drawn from a wide range of fields, including business, health, fair trade and poetry.

Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, Professor Alistair Fitt said: “After a two-year gap due to the pandemic, I am delighted to be awarding degrees in person this year. It is a tremendous honour to announce our inspiring honorary graduates for this month’s graduation ceremonies. We choose our honorary graduates very carefully and ensure their values and work aligns closely with the University. The conferment of the degree allows Oxford Brookes to acknowledge those we admire and respect and we look forward to celebrating this at events which are a real highlight of the academic year.”

The nine honorary graduates for the May ceremonies will be:

Sally Bromley (10am, Thursday 19 May):

Sally is a retired teacher and a current trustee for Parkinson’s UK. During her career, she has made an outstanding contribution to both the field of education and to research into Parkinson’s. In 2018, Sally received an Honorary Master’s Degree for Public Services from the Open University for supporting medical studies and research into the disease.

Sally’s professional career was spent in education where she was a primary school teacher until 1990. Since her diagnosis with Parkinson’s in 2008, Sally has worked with Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre (OPDC) and as a research volunteer at Oxford Brookes. Last year, Sally was given an OPDC award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to supporting Parkinson’s research.

Michelle Ovens (10am, Saturday 21 May):

Michelle founded Small Business Britain in March 2016, and campaigns tirelessly for the UK’s six million small businesses. Under her leadership, Small Business Britain has delivered multiple programmes of support to UK small businesses. During the pandemic Michelle and her team delivered daily workshops that were attended by more than one million small businesses.

In 2021, Michelle helped to deliver the Small Business Planet campaign, with the aim of committing small businesses to carbon net zero by 2050. This year, Michelle continues to strive to encourage small businesses to commit to greater sustainability practices, and together with Oxford Brookes Business School has created the free to access ‘Sustainability Basics’ programme.

Bob Price (12 noon, Saturday 21 May):

Bob worked at the Economic and Social Research Council as Head of Policy and International Relations before he joined the Agricultural and Food Research Council and eventually became Director of Personnel. Between 2002 and 2013, Bob was Director of Human Resources here at Oxford Brookes, retiring in December 2013.

In May 1983, Bob was elected to Oxford City Council and was Leader of the Council between 2008 and 2018. He also served as Lord Mayor of Oxford from 2005 to 2006. In his 35 years with the Council, his remarkable achievements include delivering the new Westgate Centre, setting up a highly successful resettlement scheme for refugees from the Syria crisis and creating the Oxford Living Wage. He is also a founding member of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Susan Howdle (5pm, Saturday 21 May):

Susan is a barrister, and lectured in Law at the Universities of Bristol and Sheffield. She served in a judicial role as a chairman of property tribunals and was appointed by the Lord Chancellor as a member of the Council on Tribunals.

Susan is also a lifelong Methodist. She was the first woman member of the Church’s Law and Polity Committee, and the first lay person to be a member of the Conference Secretariat. As Vice-President of the Conference, Susan was involved in the 1993 approval of the role of gay men and women in the Methodist ministry. More recently, Susan played a key part in steering through the 2021 Conference’s decision to allow gay marriages in the Methodist Church.

Natalia Benjamin (3pm, Monday 23 May):

Between 1970 and 2000, Natalia was a senior lecturer in French at Oxford Brookes University, where she taught and researched subject areas including Modern European History, Refugee History and Policy, and Modern Languages. She has researched Poetry of the Resistance in France at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Natalia co-founded the Association for the Basque Children of the UK in order to capture the experiences of 4,000 Basque children who came to the UK in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. Her innovative research methods, including oral history testimonies, have influenced others studying refugee histories.


Simon Knight (5pm, Monday 23 May):

Simon has spent more than 20 years of his career working in special education, and is currently joint Head Teacher at Frank Wise School in Banbury, a community special school for children with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Simon has recently been a national special educational needs and disabilities leader for Whole School SEND (special educational needs and disabilities). This is a group of organisations who are working together to deliver the Department for Education’s SEND reforms, which is aimed at improving the quality of education for learners with special educational needs and disabilities. He is currently part of the Department for Education’s SEND reference group and a member of the Teaching School Hubs council.


Catriona Riddell (3pm, Tuesday 24 May):


In 2006, Catriona became the Director of Planning for the South East England Regional Assembly. Three years later, the work done by her team supporting the review of planning for Gypsies and Travellers saw them receive a national Royal Town Planning Institute Award. More recently, Catriona’s expertise has led to her being consulted around strategic planning by the UK Government as part of its planning reform agenda.

Catriona has also established her own consultancy firm where she now provides support on a range of spatial planning issues. Her outstanding work leads the way on new forms of planning, working across local authority boundaries. Earlier this year, she was also included in The Planner’s 2022 list of the top 50 Women of Influence in planning.

Allegra McEvedy (3pm, Friday 27 May):

Allegra is a chef, writer and broadcaster. She has been cooking professionally for over 25 years, working with many of London’s best restaurants, and at the age of 24 became the youngest female Head Chef in the capital. She developed the philosophy that she continues to live and work by: that there are more ways for a chef to make a difference than by winning Michelin stars, and that good food should be available to everybody.

In 2004 Allegra co-founded LEON, the award-winning, healthy, fast-food restaurant group. Allegra has numerous TV appearances including CBBC’s Step up to the Plate and Junior Bake-Off, and a series of children’s short films for BBC2. She was awarded an MBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2008 and is a proud patron of the Fairtrade Foundation and The Food Chain, an HIV & AIDs charity, as well as being an Ambassador for Compassion in World Farming. Allegra has worked throughout her career on areas such as improving visibility and opportunities for female chefs, LGBTQIA+ equality, healthy eating, ethical sourcing, and engaging children with food and cookery to help them make the right choices in their diet.

Afua Hirsch (12 noon, Saturday 28 May):

Afua Hirsch is a writer, author, TV presenter, documentary maker and former barrister. After graduating, she worked at the Open Society Institute in Dakar, Senegal, a grant-making foundation supporting NGOs to improve democracy and human rights in 15 West African countries, before becoming a barrister specialising in human rights, and working on legal aid cases including evictions, immigration and asylum, press freedom and international war crimes.

She joined The Guardian as a legal affairs correspondent, subsequently becoming the paper’s first West Africa correspondent before moving to television, joining Sky News as its Social Affairs editor, a role she held until 2017. Afua is the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and has recently been announced as the advisory chair for the 2022 Edinburgh TV Festival.


Notes to editors
For more information and photos of the honorary graduates please contact the Oxford Brookes press office: pr@brookes.ac.uk or 01865 484454