The Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was in Cambridge last week to confer Honorary Degrees.

Honorary Degrees, the highest honours that the University can give, have a long history, dating back 500 years. One of the earliest recorded ceremonies was in 1493 when the University agreed to honour the poet John Skelton.

The traditional ceremony, with choral singing and Latin orations, took place in the Senate House. The graduands this year were:

  • The Most Rev and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Honorary Fellow of Christ’s and Clare Colleges and a Fellow of the British Academy (Honorary Doctorate in Divinity).
  • Professor Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, Honorary Fellow of St John’s and King’s Colleges and at the University of Birmingham, Fellow of the British Academy and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Honorary Doctorate in Law).
  • Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (Honorary Doctorate in Law).
  • Dr Charles Vest, President Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Honorary Doctorate in Law).
  • Professor Edward Witten, Charles Simonyi Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (Honorary Doctorate in Science).
  • Professor Ahmed Zewail, Linus Pauling Professor in Chemical Physics, California Institute of Technology (Honorary Doctorate in Science).
  • Margaret Drabble CBE, novelist. (Honorary Doctorate in Letters).

Speaking on behalf of the graduands after the ceremony, in a reply to the Chancellor’s toast, Professor Ndebele said: “This timeless graduation binds us to all who have been here centuries before, and to whom we feel bound together by an institution, in its various manifestations, as permanent as human society.”

The Chancellor also found time to visit the new building for the Electrical Engineering Division at West Cambridge, and the Museum of Zoology.

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