Oxford dons prominent in New Year honours

Two professors of English Literature and the Regius Professor of Medicine top the list of Oxford fellows who received honours on New Year’s Day.

Provost of Worcester, Professor Jonathan Bate, is knighted, Professor Marina Warner, fellow of All Souls, receives a damehood, and Professor Sir John Irving Bell has been made the first Canadian Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.

Professor Bate expressed his delight on behalf of the literary world, commenting: “Not many people have been knighted for services to Literary Scholarship, so I’m very humbled – I feel that it’s as much for Shakespeare, John Clare and the other authors I’ve written about as it is for me. But it also recognises my work as Provost of Worcester and in that sense it’s for the whole College, which is such a great place to live.”

Professor Bate is in good company, as the fourteenth current college head to receive a knighthood or damehood.

Professor Warner similarly felt her honour was a sign of revised attitudes towards academia: “I am very surprised, and very delighted, that anything I might have done for ‘higher education and literary scholarship’ should be recognised, as we are living in a very harsh climate for all of us who study and teach and research in the Humanities, and the future looks very uncertain and even more brutal.

“I consider the honour a recognition of what I am part of:  a culture of intellectual activity and ideals shared by many, many beleaguered colleagues in academic life. So in a small way, this recognition gives a different signal, I hope, that somewhere in the mysterious workings of power, there is still support for humanist education. It also gives me personally courage to continue to write what I want to write and need to say.”

Oxford dons featured highly elsewhere in the list: Professor Russell Foster of Brasenose and Professor Tim Palmer are both appointed as CBEs, and Professor Cyrus Cooper and Emeritus Regius Professor of Hebrew Hugh Williamson of Christ Church are both appointed OBEs.

Overall, ten percent of honours were for services to education, including for two vice-chancellors. Poet Laureate and Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester, Carol Ann Duffy, receives a damehood, whereas predecessor Andrew Motion, who studied at University College, received his knighthood after his laureateship.

Exactly half the recipients are women; in last year’s honours, women received more honours than men for the first time.

Others associated with Oxford include Dickson Poon, who receives a knighthood. The Hong-Kong based businessman famously donated £10 million to St. Hugh’s for the Chinese Centre, which bears his name and houses the Bodleian’s Chinese Collection. He later donated £20 million to the law faculty at University College London, which has been renamed in his honour.


PHOTO/ The Shakespeare Code