Honorary degree holders

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Male Getting Into Robes At Graduation
Hartpury Graduates In Gloucester Cathedral

Past recipients

An honorary degree is one of higher education's most significant accolades. Each year, Hartpury University bestows a number of honorary degrees on distinguished individuals. They merit special recognition for outstanding distinction in a field or activity in line with the mission of Hartpury University.

Lyn Dance

Lyn has worked in education for nearly 40 years. Her experience spans teaching and forging bright futures for those in her care through deputy and head teacher roles at special education schools in Gloucestershire, Surrey, and Hounslow.

Lyn was CEO of SAND Academies Trust (of Special Schools) in Gloucestershire and supported special schools with their leadership and Ofsted training through her role as a School Improvement Partner. Lyn’s leadership style encourages innovative working and developing future leaders. Outward looking in her quest for continuous school improvement, she contributes to several collaborative working groups with both special and mainstream schools. Her work has international reach, having advised on special education in South Africa and Belarus.

Lyn is passionate about special education and supporting the whole family. She has met with various MPs to campaign for additional funding for special education. In October 2021, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to special education.

This honorary degree recognises Lyn's outstanding contribution to education and specifically special education.


Anne McBride

Anne’s passion for understanding why individuals, of any species including humans, do what they do has been at the heart of her career and life aim. Her aim is to improve human-animal interactions and thereby improve animal welfare, human wellbeing, and that of the environment.

Anne completed a Psychology degree before investigating rabbit behaviour during her PhD. Though best known for her activities in the pet world, she has experience working in various animal contexts including zoos, hill farms, and laboratories. As Anne started practicing as a trainer and clinical behaviourist in the mid-1980s, emerging evidence revealed that owner miseducation, often at the hands of veterinary professionals and trainers, was an exacerbating factor in many problem behaviour cases.

On discovering this lack of understanding of ethology, learning theory and/or human psychology, Anne became passionate about accessible education and her career changed course.

To this day, Anne continues to advance and teach both theory and practice, sharing her expertise with professionals and members of the public a like, including adults and children. Since its inception in 2010, Anne has been an active supporter of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC). She advocates for standards of knowledge and skills for training and behaviour professionals as the only long-term route to improving welfare for animals in all contexts.

Anne is aware that none of us journey alone. We learn from and are supported by many others along the way – people from all walks of life. To learn we must engage with an open mind, to remember there are no stupid questions, and always ask why. Only then can we keep our sense of the curious and objectivity alive.

This honorary degree is awarded in recognition of Anne’s outstanding work within the field of companion animal behaviour.


Mel Nicholls

Mel brings her values and experience from world-class sport, her adventurous spirit as a Paralympian, and her motivation as an ultra-endurance athlete, to advocate for disability and women in sport.

Following a series of life-changing strokes in 2008, Mel’s passion for all things equine, sport, and adrenaline-inducing saw her embark on a journey to racing on the world stage.

Mel’s unstoppable spirit was sparked whilst watching the Bejing Paralympics from her hospital bed. Here was an outlet for her love of physical activity and competitive nature, beyond the perceived barriers of physical loss. Parasport became her therapy and ultimately enabled her to regain sport as a core part of her identity.

Four years later, Mel competed in wheelchair racing at the London 2012 Paralympics – 15 months after starting the sport – before representing her country as part of GB Athletics, achieving track world records as well as European and World medal success.

Following the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Mel turned to endurance and road wheelchair racing, alongside her new sport of handcycling, once again achieving international medal success.

Whether solo handcycling the archipelagos, the coasts of Britain and Ireland, or smashing world records handcycling Britain End to End (crew-supported) in just six days, Mel’s blazing a trail through male-dominated ultra endurance and leading the way in ultracycling.

In 2022, Mel embraced her Dream Big motto to complete a paratriathlon – combining handcycling and wheelchair racing with swimming, her biggest challenge yet – and raced for GB once again at her first World Series paratriathlon, finishing just 20 seconds shy of the podium.

Now part of the GB Paralympic world-class programme with British Triathlon, Mel’s leaving no stone unturned in her journey to Paris 2024.

This honorary degree recognises Mel’s significant contribution to the areas of athletics and sports science.

Alfred Morris

Alfred Morris has been a long-term supporter and advocate of Hartpury College and Hartpury University. He’s a former High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and received a CBE in the 2003 Birthday Honours list.
As Vice-Chancellor of the University of West of England (UWE) 1992-2005 he worked to develop an effective and supportive partnership relationship with Hartpury College as it was established as an Associate Faculty of UWE. Following this, Alfred was an active and early proponent of Hartpury’s decision to commence the journey to Degree Awarding Powers and achieving university status in 2019. Alfred’s relationship with Hartpury continued after he moved on from UWE, with him being formally appointed as the College’s Inaugural President in 2008.
Nationally, Alfred Morris has served on: the Council for National Academic Awards; the Higher Education Quality Council; the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales; the Further Education Funding Council for England; and the e-University Holding Company. Regionally, Alfred Morris was a founder member of the South West Regional Development Agency, a director of the South West Urban Regeneration Fund, a trustee of the Gloucestershire Community Foundation, and an honorary academician of the Royal West of England Academy.

This honorary degree is awarded in recognition of Alfred’s contribution to education and Hartpury.

Graham Van Der Lely

Graham van der Lely, former governor and Chair, has been key to driving Hartpury’s development from an agricultural college with only 69 students to a thriving University and College with over 4,500 students. He has utilised his industry experience in agriculture and equine to ensure Hartpury remains true to its roots, while supporting the development of students from a breadth of backgrounds.
His commitment, determination and ambition for Hartpury, its students and the industries it serves, has been significant in driving Hartpury College to become one of the largest land-based colleges, and more recently a university, with an outstanding reputation. He has contributed actively to all the major committees of Hartpury, serving as Chair for nine years. He has given many hours of his time in supporting the Principal/Vice-Chancellor, fellow governors and senior staff.
Due to Hartpury’s relationship with UWE as an Associate Faculty for its higher education provision, he became a governor of UWE for 15 years and helped to maintain relationships between UWE and Hartpury at governance level. He was also a member of the Association of Colleges’ Council, ensuring the voice of land-based colleges and land-based industries was heard.

Equipping individuals to live full, purposeful lives is at the heart of all activities Graham gets involved with. This honorary degree is in recognition of his contribution to education, whilst continuing his work in the horticultural and equine industries.

Nick Gazzard

Following the murder of his daughter Hollie by her former partner, in February 2014, Nick felt strongly that something positive should come out of Hollie’s death and created the Hollie Gazzard Trust. He is determined to try and prevent similar tragedies by increasing awareness of domestic abuse and stalking and the devastating effect it causes. Nick’s dedication and tireless hard work for the trust is expanding to further work across the country.
He has inspired many people with the story of how he gave a devastating experience a positive outcome, highlighting his passion for helping others. Recent projects have included helping launch the Black Country Stalking Support Service; delivering Working Without Fear a dedicated programme supporting businesses and organisations. He also worked with Exeter University and Public Health England on creating and delivering a program ’Football Onside’ tackling violence and abuse in football and sport through bystander intervention.
He is a Keynote Motivational Speaker and has spoken at a variety of conferences and training events nationwide. This includes ‘Beyond the Bruises’ conferences in London on the new domestic violence legislation and statutory guidance framework, as well as a variety of statutory agencies including National Police Chiefs’ Council single point of contact (SPOC’s) training; College of Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service. He has been involved with Hartpury for many years, delivering a variety of training at at Hartpury’s annual Wellfest event, covering topics such as healthy relationships, sexual harassment and safeguarding.

This honorary degree is awarded in recognition of Nick’s dedication to raising awareness and delivering training for the prevention of domestic abuse and stalking. And, as always, in loving memory of Hollie.

Imran Atcha

Imran Atcha has been a community worker in Gloucester for over 20 years. He has invested his own personal experience and passion for horses and animals, into making them accessible for children from the inner city, in particular those from minority ethnic backgrounds who are under-represented in the UK.

This led to the establishment of the first inner-city based riding school in the southwest in 2015. One of only a handful of similar projects across the UK. In 2010, Imran used to bring three children at a time to Hartpury for their introduction to horses. Now, up to 40 children a week enjoy lessons at St James City Farm Riding School, in one of the most built up and deprived areas of the county. Lessons are deliberately made affordable and the ponies are also taken to primary schools and community settings. Children are introduced to different aspects of the equine world including shows, racing, eventing and other care. Imran has remained involved with Hartpury, having undertaken his basic training and coaching exams, being mentored by the equine department staff.

As well as being a founding member of the riding school, Imran manages St James City Farm. Its aim is to provide a taste of the countryside in the heart of the city of Gloucester alongside the riding school. It has a collection of farm animals with free access to local children, and provides regular volunteering opportunities to local young people, as well as Hartpury Animal Care students each year.

This Honorary degree is in recognition of Imran’s community work and the promotion of equine and animal education.

Malcolm Wharton

Malcolm was Principal of Hartpury College for 22 years. Appointed to the post of what was then the Gloucestershire College of Agriculture and Horticulture in 1990. He took Hartpury from 69 students on two agricultural courses and under threat of closure, to around 3000 students on a range of equestrian, animal management, sport and land management programmes. By his retirement in 2012, Hartpury College was graded Outstanding by Ofsted.

Some of the key achievements delivered by Malcolm and his team included the Hartpury Equestrian Centre, started in 1991, the Hartpury Sports Academy established in 1999 and the start of higher education programmes in 1992 – which led eventually to the establishment of Hartpury University. Malcolm and his team invested £50m in new facilities for students during his tenure.

Malcolm’s wider contribution is significant. He is currently Chair of the British Equestrian Federation, an Honorary Vice President of the Riding for the Disabled Association, one of only five life members of Gloucester Rugby, a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society and former Director and Council member of the RFU.

Building on Malcolm’s CBE award for services to Further Education in 2012, this Honorary degree is awarded in recognition of his contribution to education and Hartpury.

Majeed Waris

Majeed is a Ghanaian international and professional football player who currently plays for a French club, RC Strasbourg. He has had stints with a number of European teams, including Swedish side BK Häcken, Trabzonspor in Turkey, French sides Lorient and Nantes, Portuguese Champions League club FC Porto and Russian giants Spartak Moscow.

Growing up in Tamale, Northern Ghana, he remembers the lack of opportunities surrounding him and his family. However, aged 12, Majeed started his career at Right to Dream – a Ghanaian football academy. Majeed’s access to coaching, mentoring and programmes at the Academy and Hartpury shows the significant impact educational resources can have. It has inspired Majeed to provide life-changing pathways for his local community in Ghana and he continues to give back and act as a national role model. In 2014, The Majeed Waris Foundation was launched to provide material and financial assistance to aid health and education in Tamale Metropolis, Ghana. Since its inception, the foundation continues to develop its partnership with schools, hospitals and community groups.

He was named the Swedish Premier League Player of the Year in 2012 and top goal scorer, going on to win the Premier League in Portugal in 2018. He has played over 30 times for the Ghanaian national team. He has achieved significant milestones for Hartpury and Right to Dream, by becoming the first graduate to score for Ghana and Hartpury’s first World Cup player in 2014 in Brazil.

As well as excelling as a professional footballer and representing Ghana on the pitch, Majeed’s work in education and his local community continues to inspire. A worthy recipient.

Carl Hester

Carl Hester is a household name that is synonymous with British Dressage. He has numerous, significant achievements in top-level dressage. He helped Britain to their first-ever team European title in 2011, also picking up individual silver on his horse Uthopia. He is a fivetime Olympian, achieving Gold at London 2012 and Silver at Rio 2016. He became the first Honorary Patron of British Dressage in November 2016 and is often described as one of Britain’s most successful dressage riders, holding 68 national dressage titles.

Carl has extensive involvement in developing other athletes and nurturing riding talent, as well as having produced many horses to Grand Prix level. He is committed to the development and welfare of both horse and rider.

Carl is an advocate of Hartpury’s educational programmes and incredibly supportive of Hartpury’s Equine Academy programme. He
periodically visits Hartpury to train students and welcomes them to his yard for training opportunities. He is also a familiar face at Hartpury events, competing in numerous competitions here.

Carl is a highly regarded role model, both inside and out of equestrian sport and was invested MBE in 2013. This honorary degree is in recognition of Carl’s significant contribution to equestrian sport and education.

Mark Davison

Mark was a governor of Hartpury for 25 years, 17 of which were spent as Chair. During that time Hartpury developed from an institution with only 69 students and under the threat of closure, to the outstanding institution it is now. Mark was absolutely instrumental in this progress as the influential Chair of the Board of Governors.

Mark, a local farmer and businessman, is also a former governor of the University of the West of England, has held the chair of the CULTIVA (ELITE) Consortium, and was a member of the Gloucestershire Federation of Colleges. He was a local county councillor for the area including Hartpury, and was also involved in the setting up of the radio station Severn Sound.

This honorary degree is awarded in recognition of Mark’s contribution to education and Hartpury.

Jane Holderness-Roddam

Jane Holderness-Roddam achieved sporting fame by winning Badminton on her horse Our Nobby in 1968. She was selected for the Olympic three-day event team and became the first British woman to compete and win a team gold medal. Her other horses included Warrior, who carried her to victory at Burghley in 1976, Team Gold at the European Championships at Burghley in 1977, and to success again at Badminton in 1978.

Following retirement from eventing, Jane remained involved as Chairman and President of British Eventing. During her illustrious career she has judged, instructed and competed in many countries and made a significant contribution to equestrian sport and to the promotion of related education and training, including improving the welfare of horses. Many charities have benefited from Jane’s work, including World Horse Welfare, The Brooke and Riding for the Disabled association, where she held the role of Chair for many years.

Jane was a governor at Hartpury for eight years from 2007. She was awarded a CBE for services to equestrian sport in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2004, and currently serves as Lady-in-Waiting to The Princess Royal.

This honorary degree is in recognition of Jane’s contribution to equestrian sport and to the promotion of equine-related education.

Martin Baber – posthumous award

We fondly remember Martin Baber, who passed away in 2019. Martin was a former student of Hartpury and a governor for 24 years, retiring in February 2015. He was a key figure in helping to form a new Board of Governors in 1989 when Hartpury’s future was under threat. His knowledge ensured the right people were presented for election to the Board, and he nominated local businessman and farmer Mark Davison to be elected as Chair, believing him to be the best person for the job. Martin helped Hartpury to become one of the largest land-based education institutions with an outstanding reputation.

He was made President of Hartpury Rugby in 2010 and used this role to encourage higher achievement and greater participation in the sport’s activities. He was responsible for the formation of the Gloucestershire Farmers Trust and he managed to retain Agriculture House in Gloucester as a venue for farmers to meet.

This honorary degree is awarded in recognition of Martin’s contribution to education and the agriculture sector in Gloucestershire.

Graduation Robe

Honorary degree nominations

An honorary degree is one of higher education's most significant accolades. Each year, the Hartpury University bestows a number of honorary degrees on distinguished individuals who merit special recognition for outstanding achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the mission and strategy of the University. We welcome all honorary degree nominations made by anyone within or outside the University, for more information visit our honorary degree nomination page.