THE Archbishop of York, a leading energy specialist, an education champion and an eminent sports personality will receive honorary degrees this week.

All four will be awarded for 'long and exemplary service of national and international importance' alongside 1,500 students from 75 countries, during Durham University's winter congregation ceremonies on Thursday and Friday.

Dr John Sentamu has served as Archbishop of York for almost 15 years, challenging the Church and wider society on issues of poverty, racism, social integration, and the development of young people. Born in Uganda, he was educated by English missionaries and practised law before being forced to flee to the UK in 1974. As a visitor at St John’s College, Durham University, he has encouraged and supported students and the college itself.

Dr Sentamu said: “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."

Barbara Vest has enjoyed a long and successful career in the power industry and was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list 2020.

She is an active and valued member of the advisory board of the university’s Durham Energy Institute and has devoted much time to supporting students and early career researchers.

She said: “I am still in shock to be considered for such a prestigious award, as a County Durham resident this is extra special.

“I am proud to have been able to ensure that Durham Energy Institute students get to meet and greet members of our Energy UK Young Professionals Forum, enabling them to learn more about opportunities within the energy sector whilst growing their own network of contacts."

Working in education and public service for more than 35 years, Sir Kevan Collins was appointed first chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, in 2011. Within 18 months, the EEF was named as the UK Government’s ‘what works’ centre for education. Durham University has worked closely with the EEF and Sir Kevan has visited the university many times, particularly since the establishment of the Primary Literacy Campaign, based at Durham University’s School of Education. He was knighted for his services to education in 2015.

Sir Kevan Collins, Doctor of Letters, said: “Durham University makes a huge contribution to improving education in England and across the world particularly, for children facing economic disadvantage. Much of the EEF’s success is the result of its work with the University.

“I am honoured to receive this award and as ever, deeply grateful for the support and guidance from the dedicated teachers and public servants I have worked with throughout my career."

Chris Kelly studied at Durham in the 1970s and played for the first XV rugby team for four years. He went on to play for Harlequins before taking up coaching and was appointed President of the Rugby Football Union in 2018. He has maintained strong links with the university, becoming a valued mentor for many young athletes.

Chris Kelly, Doctor of Civil Law, said: “I’m incredibly surprised, excited and honoured to be awarded an honorary degree from Durham University. My time and experiences at Durham transformed my life and gave me the confidence I needed to move forward into the working world.

“To all of the students graduating from Durham, congratulations on your degrees. I wish you all good luck for the future and hope that you use your experiences at Durham to good effect.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: "We are very proud of all of our graduates and their many inspiring achievements.

"We take our responsibilities as a centre for learning seriously. We strive to create the opportunities, support and freedom for everyone at Durham to become the best they can, so they can go on to do inspiring and innovative things around the world.

“Our honorary graduates come from a range of fields and all have achieved great things. Their dedication and passion for their work embody our values and we are incredibly proud to award each of them with an honorary degree.

"We do hope that all of our graduates and honorary graduates take Durham with them where ever they go and that they become ambassadors for our university, city and region."