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A new hat

I was honoured this week to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Social Science from the University of Bolton. As one friend commented – “Dressing up and a show; perfect way to celebrate, John!”

It wasn’t quite the normal show of a graduation ceremony that you’d expect to see. Covid rather put paid to that… Instead, a unique Covid-secure ceremony was filmed for a special movie documenting this year’s innovative ‘Alternative Graduation’.

The University of Bolton is one of the only ones in the UK to have invited graduands from this year and last to be presented with their degrees in person and their gowns, giving them the chance to have official photographs of their special day.

Here’s my acceptance speech.

Madam Pro Vice Chancellor, staff of the University, students, families and friends

I am chuffed to bits to be with you today.   And it’s a joy to be here in person rather than on the end of a Zoom call.   

I hold the University of Bolton in the highest of regard, so I feel very privileged to have been honoured by the University in this way.   There has been a longstanding commitment here to give students the very best of experiences.   There’s a recognition here that academic learning, fuelled by first class research are at the heart of that making that happen, but that both are supported by other experiences that happen away from the lecture theatre or research lab. 

To be equipped properly for life, we all need to develop the qualities of perseverance, grit, curiosity, optimism and self-control. Economists might describe these qualities as non-cognitive. Psychologists might call them ‘personality traits’. To the rest of us, they’re just known as ‘character’ and the development of character, through what we now know as Non-formal Education and Learning, is something the University of Bolton has always championed.

You do this using your amazing sport and wellness facilities, through your community engagement activity, your pastoral support, through GAME@Bolton, and through your support of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Nothing would happen without the support and leadership of the staff of the University of Bolton. Your dedication to your students and community is exemplary and inspirational.

The pandemic has re-written the way that we interact and the ways in which we go about our daily lives.   It has been fantastic to see students in Bolton being given the opportunity to excel, in and out of their formal courses, in such difficult times.

And today is really about you, the graduates of the University of Bolton. Congratulations on achieving your degree after a very challenging couple of years. Congratulations on your hard work and your resilience.  Congratulations on your very real successes despite (and sometimes because of) the challenges you have faced.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of your graduation celebrations. It is such an honour to be with you.

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