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Sir Michael Palin and others to be awarded honorary degrees from the University of Oxford

World-renowned comedian and actor Sir Michael Palin and Grammy-nominated sitarist Anoushka Shankar are among six people to be awarded honorary degrees from the University of Oxford. This year’s Encaenia Ceremony, where the six will be awarded their honorary degrees, will take place on June 19.

Sir Michael Palin is an actor and comedian who first rose to prominence as a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python in the 1970s. Palin has also presented travel documentaries for the BBC and written travel books. In 2019, he received a knighthood for “services to travel, culture and geography”. He studied Modern History at Brasenose College.

Anoushka Shankar is a musician, sitar-player and composer. She has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards and an Ivor Novello Award. She is also noted for her activism, supporting refugee related causes. Shankar wrote on her Instagram page that she was “still pinching [herself]” about the honorary degree. Last year, she became the inaugural Visiting Professor of Music Business at Oxford’s Music Faculty.

The other British individuals receiving honorary degrees are Warren East and Sir Demis Hassabis. Warren East has served as CEO of Arm Holdings from 2001 to 2013 and of Rolls-Royce from 2015 to 2022. He studied Engineering Science at Wadham College.

Sir Demis Hassabis the CEO and co-founder of the AI research laboratory DeepMind. His laboratory notably developed the program AlphaGo, which defeated the then world champion Lee Sedol at the board game Go in 2016.

The remaining honourees are Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist and the first woman and first African to hold the position of director general of the World Trade Organisation, and Professor Salim Yusuf, a Canadian cardiologist and epidemiologist. The University describes Yusuf’s work as having “substantially influenced prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.” He was elected as an honorary fellow of St John’s College in 2023. 

Honorary degrees have previously stoked controversy at the University, such as when the Sultan of Brunei handed back his honorary degree in 2019 following widespread criticism.

The University of Oxford has conferred honorary degrees to distinguished men and women since at least the late 1470s. Notable honorary degree recipients include Jimmy Carter in 2007, Martin Scorcese in 2018 and Hilary Clinton in 2021.

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