Birthday Honours for Edinburgh graduates
This year's Queen's Birthday Honours list has recognised 18 Edinburgh alumni. There's a real emphasis on community and the public good, with our graduate recipients working and volunteering in areas including refugee and asylum seeker education, multi-culturalism, and public education and assistance during Covid-19. We spoke with seven of them about their work and how their time at the University has influenced them.
Professor Linda Bauld completed her PhD in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh in 1998 and currently serves as Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health at the University's Usher Institute. The Chair is the oldest Professorship of Public Health in the UK, and Linda is the first woman to hold it. During the Covid-19 pandemic she was a regular contributor to UK and international media debate on public health responses needed to address it, as well as serving as adviser to the Covid-19 Committee of the Scottish Parliament. She receives the OBE for services to guiding public health response to and public understanding of Covid-19.
"I've been involved in public health research for almost 25 years so in some ways have been in training for the challenges that 2020 and 2021 has brought for all that time. It's an important field because it's about trying to find ways to support and protect the health of whole populations, not just individuals. I'm very fortunate to hold the Usher Chair in Public Health, which is the oldest in the UK, so trying to step in and help during the pandemic was a natural and I think necessary thing to do. Many of my colleagues have done the same and I was delighted to receive the OBE as part of a group recognised for their contributions on Covid-19. There are many, many others who deserve recognition and our thanks for all they've done during this difficult period and that includes many University of Edinburgh staff and students."
"As a PhD student at Edinburgh I was very fortunate to become involved with policy research within the Scottish Government (then Scottish Office) alongside my studies and was supported by my supervisors to do so. I've worked with policy makers here, in the UK and internationally ever since. I loved studying at Edinburgh and am so grateful to be back here now as a member of staff. It's a huge privilege."
Paul graduated in 1982 with a degree in Law, and has enjoyed a distinguished career in public law in Scotland. He is the former head of the Scottish Government's Legal Directorate. He receives the CBE for services to the Scottish Government.
"I feel that I have been enormously fortunate in having enjoyed a career in public law in the Scottish Government and its predecessors at the time of the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and since. For a lawyer, these constitutional changes are of immense significance. The Government Legal Service in Scotland (GLSS), which I led until shortly before retiring, has been central in shaping the constitutional settlement and the numerous areas of groundbreaking legislation passed in the first 5 sessions of the Parliament. The recognition through this award reflects the leadership of the GLSS and the value of the high-quality legal advice given by very many talented lawyers under-pinning these momentous changes."
"My years as an undergraduate studying law at Edinburgh were instrumental in opening my horizons to how law can inspire change and influence civic society. I was privileged to have studied jurisprudence under Professor Neil MacCormick and developed an interest in EU law through the work of Professor John Usher, whose teaching was ahead of its time.
My career allowed me to undertake a range of policy, as well as legal, roles in the Scottish Government. These were as rewarding and challenging as any legal posts and again are a tribute to the University for the strength of the grounding provided in my time as a student."
Dr Philippa Gregory completed her PhD in 1985, and has gone on to be a best-selling author of historical fiction. The best known of her works is 'The Other Boleyn Girl' (2001), which in 2002 won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association, and has been adapted into two critically acclaimed films. She receives the CBE for services to Literature and Charity in the UK and The Gambia.
"It’s a great pleasure to be honoured for work that I do for the love of it. Since writing my first novel which was directly inspired by my PhD research at Edinburgh I have written about women in history whose voices are rarely heard. Researching and reconstructing their lives in fictional and factual writing has both the challenge of a puzzle - how to fill the gaps in the record, how to trace lives that have been ‘hidden from history’ - and the creative joy of storytelling. The honour has been given to me also for my work in setting up and resourcing a well-digging charity in The Gambia, which has now put a well into almost every school in The Gambia, a lovely small-scale, low tech, people-driven project.
"My supervisor at Edinburgh was the late Geoffrey Carnall, a scholar with a wonderfully dry self-deprecating sense of humour. Whenever I am struggling with a big amorphous theory of history, I can hear him clear his throat and say (quoting Middlemarch) ‘Ah! That was something I used to go into a good deal, at one time’. The joke was that unlike Mr Brooke in the novel, Geoffrey would indeed have gone into it a good deal, and would have references and a bibliography at his fingertips.”
Dr David Harding is a 1983 graduate of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine, and is currently a practising vet in Northern Ireland where he has also been active in local politics as a councillor. He receives the MBE for public and political service in Northern Ireland.
"I qualified as Veterinary Surgeon from the Dick Vet in 1983 and I'm still in practice. I have lived in Northern Ireland since 1984 and my award of the MBE was in recognition of the efforts I have made in local politics to move away from conflict and sectarianism and to focus on the real issues that people deal with every day. I can think of no more important work even though it is frustrating and difficult. The award is important as a recognition of the efforts of a large, but generally unrecognised, number of individuals who believe in a better future for this wonderful part of the United Kingdom."
"I was a student in Edinburgh in what was the golden age of university education. There were no tuition fees and the Student Grant was in retrospect extremely generous - we qualified with no student debt. At that time only about 10% of our age group went to university and there was a very real sense that to attend Edinburgh was a privilege. My sister was a medical student a couple of years ahead of me and like so many families at that time we were the first generation to attend university. I have one memory of leaving a party early in the morning to climb Arthur's Seat with a friend from Inverness who had brought his bagpipes; he played as the sun rose and I can relive the feeling that we were masters of our own destiny. The degree of BVM&S from Edinburgh is still regarded as a sign of real accomplishment, I am still proud to have the letters behind my name and it was the key to the rest of my life."
Jeremy is a 1982 Arts graduate and is currently a Research Associate and former Visiting Fellow at the Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge. He receives the MBE for services to the civil society and the Muslim community in the UK.
"My work as a researcher, speaker and writer in fostering intercultural education, interspiritual values, pluralism and respect for diversity in a multicultural and multi-faith society has been important to me because there is a real need at this time to counter the trend of crude nationalism, jingoism, exclusivism, intolerance and isolationism which increasingly infects our society. I see this work as going well beyond mere tolerance, since it has aimed to increase real understanding and positive engagement with the 'other', however that is conceived of by specific communities."
"My time at Edinburgh was very important in shaping my future path. Having graduated with an MSc in Applied Linguistics in 1982, I went on to obtain a PhD in Applied Psycholinguistics from the University of Lancaster in 1985 for my research in Papua New Guinea. While working there for three years as a Lecturer at the University of Technology, I returned to the Department of Applied Linguistics at Edinburgh University as a lecturer in Discourse Studies and Psycholinguistics on the MSc course. Although I only remained at Edinburgh until 1988, my time there was influential in developing further the vision of education that inspired my subsequent work."
Tim is a 1993 graduate of History, and is currently Professor of North American Studies at the University of Warwick, and Chairman of Harbury Parish in Warwickshire. He receives the MBE for services to the community in Harbury, Warwickshire particularly during Covid-19.
"I was nominated by members of the community of my village (Harbury, Warwickshire) where I have been chairman of the Parish Council since 2007. In that time I helped to establish the Harbury Heritage Centre; I led the campaign to save Harbury Library from closure and transform it into a community hub; and established a volunteer network to support the vulnerable and elderly during the pandemic. It was humbling to be nominated, especially since all of these things involved lots of people working together who translated my ideas into action."
"I had a wonderful four years in Edinburgh with so many happy memories. It deepened the love for my subject (History) through some fantastic teaching, helping to confirm to me that teaching and researching history was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I am now twenty-five years into my career as an academic, hopefully inspiring the next generation of historians just as I was inspired as an undergraduate."
Arthur is a 1973 graduate of Greek. He is a retired teacher of Management at the University of Ulster and now volunteers as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, teaching adult migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. He receives the MBE for services to refugees and asylum seekers.
"I am now a volunteer at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. Its ESOL programme can change lives by helping adult refugees and asylum seekers take their first steps in English. ‘Giving back’ was important to me when I retired after teaching Management at the University of Ulster for several decades. An opportunity arose to use skills, qualifications and experience I had acquired as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, teacher trainer and centre manager, working on three different continents. Few people in the world of English language teaching have recognition such as the MBE and it will provide networking opportunities as I and other volunteers develop options for delivery of our ESOL programme - face-to-face, online and blended - in Belfast and beyond."
"The Classics department at Edinburgh in my time included teachers and students who were hugely diverse in their backgrounds and in their ways of looking at issues and opportunities we encountered: the challenges facing Achilles and Odysseus, the options facing the lover Horace and the battle stratagems described by Tacitus all indicated how a variety of options needed to be considered. This stood me in good stead when I made my own career decisions in the years that followed. This also gave me opportunities to provide wider perspectives on decisions made in the various organisations for which I have worked."
The New Year's Honours list 2021 in full (external website)