Town Hall set for Aston graduation ceremonies

aston gradutes

10 April 2017

  • More than 500 graduands to be awarded postgraduate degrees at Town Hall Birmingham on Tuesday 11 April.
  • List of leading figures to be awarded Aston honorary degrees announced.

Aston University will be celebrating the hard work of hundreds of students on Tuesday 11 April in the heart of Birmingham city centre as the spring graduation ceremonies get underway.

More than 500 students who have studied for a postgraduate degree will officially process in the presence of Vice Chancellor Professor Alec Cameron at local landmark Town Hall Birmingham across three ceremonies.

The University is also to present four honorary degrees to leading figures from across the UK. They are Dr Nick Venning, Abdulla Al-Harrasi, The Rt Rev David Urquhart, and Dame Heather Rabbatts CBE.

In addition, comedian and Comic Relief co-founder Sir Lenny Henry will receive an honorary degree in absentia.

Dr Nick Venning

Nick Venning is a prominent Birmingham business personality. In a period spanning forty years, he has enjoyed a successful career in manufacturing industry, management consulting and most recently as Marketing Director Global Industries at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is widely recognised as one of the city’s business leaders and frequently features in listings of those most influential in the future of the West Midlands.

Nick is well known as a champion of the voluntary sector in Birmingham, focusing on young people, education and employability issues. He has made a unique contribution to the engagement between Birmingham’s professional and financial services business community and many third sector organisations throughout the city.

His Excellency Dr Abdulla Al-Harrasi

Dr Abdulla Al-Harrasi was born in 1971 in the rural village Jamma in Rustaq, in the Sultanate of Oman. In 2001, he gained his PhD from Aston University in Translation Studies. The title of his dissertation was “Metaphor in (Arabicinto-English) Translation with Specific Reference to Metaphorical Concepts and Expressions in Political Discourse”.

He was the Editor-in-Chief of the Omani Encyclopedia which was published in 2013 in 11 volumes. In October 2011, he was appointed by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, as Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio, in the rank of a Minister. Dr Al-Harrasi has published several research papers and books in the areas of metaphor and translation.

The Right Reverend David Urquhart, Hon DD, Lord Bishop of Birmingham

Bishop David came to Birmingham in 2006 and has an equal focus on the church and the wider world. After 10 years of commercial management with BP and theological study at Oxford, he served as a parish priest in Hull and Coventry and as Bishop of Birkenhead.

He is actively involved with education, social cohesion, and economic justice. He co-ordinated Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process from 2010-2015 and chaired the University of Birmingham’s Wealth Distribution Commission in 2013. Bishop David also has a significant interest in global politics and international relations. Chair of the Church Mission Society from 1993 to 2008, he maintains close links with DR Congo, Uganda and Malawi. He is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Envoy to China, Chair of Ridley Hall, a Church Commissioner, and Prelate to the Order of St Michael and St George.

Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE

Heather Rabbatts (DBE) has a singular biography ranging across law, Government, sport and media. Beginning her career as a Barrister at Law she then moved to become a government advisor, a senior executive in public services and the youngest CEO in the UK. During this time she began an on-screen media career as a social commentator and then moved behind the scenes, serving as a Governor of the BBC followed by an appointment as a senior executive at Channel 4 - commissioning programmes across genres and developing a range of talent development initiatives.

Heather is currently Managing Director of Cove Pictures (a TV/Film Production company) and is a non-executive board member for Arts Alliance (a major film/digital investment fund).

Sir Lenny Henry (in absentia)

Lenny Henry has been a comedian since the age of 16.  He has risen from being a cult star on children's television to becoming one of Britain's best-known comedians, as well as an actor and writer. Lenny first found fame as a comedy impressionist on 70’s TV talent show, New Faces and is best known for his appearances on TISWAS, Three of a Kind, The Lenny Henry Show, Hope & Glory, Lenny Henry in Pieces and Chef!

Lenny has won many awards including the Monaco Red Cross and The Golden Nymph Award at The Monte Carlo Television Festival, the Radio & Television Industry Club Award for BBC Personality of the Year, The Golden Rose at the Montreux Television Festival and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards.

Most recently, Lenny appeared in BBC1’s The Syndicate in early 2015 and on stage at The Chichester Festival in Educating Rita. He starred in Danny And The Human Zoo on BBC1 in August 2015, which he wrote and was produced by Red Productions, and a three part series on Sky Arts called Lenny Henry’s Got The Blues, which started on 18 September and was produced by his own company, Douglas Road Productions.

It was announced in June 2015 that Lenny Henry would be awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours for services to charity.


Notes to the editor

Photos from the ceremonies will be made available to the media. To request these, please contact the press office.

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For more than 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston recently held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.

For more information, call Ben Kennedy, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4592 or email

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