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Secretary-General receives honorary doctorate from University of Roehampton

24 July 2018

The University of Roehampton has conferred the honorary degree of doctor of law on the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland. The citation referred to her dedication to public service and the Commonwealth, and determination to create a fairer, more sustainable, secure and prosperous future for all.

The doctorate was awarded by the senate and council of the University of Roehampton at a graduation ceremony held on 23 July at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The Chancellor of the University, Prof Dame Jacqueline Wilson, presided at the ceremony which was also attended by other dignitaries and academic staff of the university, researchers and graduands.

The social scientist Jackie Brown, head of Digby Stuart College, read the citation and presented the Secretary-General to receive the honorary doctorate. She commended Patricia Scotland’s commitment to promoting the shared values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter to achieve development, democracy and peace. Professor Wilson then formally conferred upon the Secretary-General the degree of Doctor of Law honoris causa.

Expressing gratitude for the accolade, Secretary-General Scotland said in her acceptance speech: “I thank the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, the University Council and Senate for the honour of this doctorate and for the opportunity to celebrate afresh our many commonalities of belief and identity which offer hope, vision, and enlightenment for us all.”

The Secretary-General referred to the characteristics of faith, respect, and love that bring humanity together, transcending boundaries. “We, in the Commonwealth, are always ready to speak up for justice, for freedom, for comity and for love. I have faith in our Commonwealth because we come from all faiths and we also have those of none. In the Commonwealth, we do not tolerate each other, we love and respect each other. Both of which are a great foundation,” she commented. 

She encouraged the graduands to use their abilities for the benefit of others by sharing with them personal reflections on her own journey and career. “If you had suggested back in 1977 when I got my first degree that I would end up by being the first woman ever to become Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, no one would have believed you,” she said.

“Therefore, I say to each of you, you are the final arbiter of what you will become. Each one of you now knows that you have been given a gift. You have held this gift, you have worked hard and now have the opportunity to use that gift and there’s nothing that you cannot do,” she added.

She also underlined the enriching values and ethos of the University of Roehampton, which chime with those of the Commonwealth. Noting that the university’s Whitelands College was the first higher education college in the UK to admit women, she stressed the importance of inclusiveness, stating that working for equality of opportunity has guided her throughout her career in law, politics and government office.