encaenia by john cairns 21st june 2023 227 copy


Recipients of honorary degrees at Oxford University’s Encaenia ceremony span the fields of science, politics, literature, journalism, and academia.

Published: 22 June 2023


Share this article

Eight widely-esteemed individuals including the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and Professor Sir Simon Schama, have received honorary degrees from Oxford University at Encaenia. 

Encaenia is held annually and is the ceremony at which honorary degrees are conferred by the University to distinguished men and women, and its benefactors are commemorated.

In the morning the recipients joined the traditional public procession, stopping to sign their names in the Honorary Degrees Book, before processing to the Sheldonian Theatre, where the Encaenia ceremony has been held in some form since 1670.

Professor Irene Tracey, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Chair of the Committee on Honorary Degrees, said: ‘Encaenia is always a special day in the University’s calendar and a wonderful opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments of individuals who have contributed to our lives in so many ways.

'This year, our eight honorands represent the wide-ranging fields of science, politics, literature, journalism, and academia. They have educated us, entertained us, and changed the world and we are delighted that they have today accepted their honorary degrees at Oxford.'


Honorands in 2023

At the Encaenia ceremony on Wednesday 21 June 2023, degrees were awarded to:  

  • Professor Frances Arnold is an American chemical engineer and Nobel Prize laureate.  
  • Former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet most recently served as the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights and was President of Chile 2006-10 and 2014-18.  
  • Lyse Doucet, CM, OBE, is the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent.  
  • Professor Stephen Furber, CBE, FRS, FREng, is the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. 
  • Professor Paul Gilroy is a cultural and social theorist, and the Professor of Humanities at University College London. He is founding director of the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation. 
  • Val McDermid, FRSE, FRSL, is an award-winning journalist and number-one bestseller whose novels have sold over 18 million copies. 
  • Professor Malik Peiris, SBS, FRS, FRCP, FRCPath, FFPH, is Professor of Virology at the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, with a particular interest in emerging virus disease. He played a key role in identifying the novel coronavirus that caused SARS in 2003. 
  • Professor Sir SimonSchama, CBE, FBA, FRHistS, FRSL, is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, New York, a contributing editor of the Financial Times, author of 19 books, and the writer-presenter of 60 documentaries on art, history and literature for BBC television.

The first honorary degrees to be awarded at a ceremony in Oxford appear to be those conferred on the Earl of Oxford and 11 others who received the MA on 6 September 1566 on the occasion of the visit of Queen Elizabeth. More information about the ceremony can be found here.