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Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE receives Cumbria university award

The University of Cumbria has conferred its highest honorary award upon the internationally influential figure and academic, the Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE.

A British academic, diplomat, explorer, author, former soldier and former politician, Rory has had an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cumbria bestowed upon him during a ceremony in Carlisle Cathedral.

Rory Stewart - Honorary Doctorate-2

Above: Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE making his address in Carlisle Cathedral

Today, Rory co-hosts top UK podcast ‘The Rest Is Politics’ and is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where he teaches politics and international relations.

Half English and half Scottish, Rory’s professional career was founded on the borders of the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan some time before he discovered his spiritual home in Cumbria upon his election as Penrith and The Border MP, a role he held between 2010 and 2019.

Turning 50 in 2023, Rory’s achievements to date have included walking 6,000 miles alone across Asia; serving as professorial chair at Harvard University; an acting Governor of an Iraqi province; leading the creation and operation of Turquoise Mountain, an internationally significant charity; serving as President of GiveDirectly, one of the fastest growing NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in the world; presenting BBC documentaries; and writing five best-selling books. He has also won many awards across different fields for his work.

As an MP, he also served in the UK Government’s cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development, and prior to that as Prisons Minister, Minister for Africa, Minister for Development, and Minister for the Environment.

Rory has captured the public’s imagination as a challenger to stereotypes, running unconventional campaigns in recent years to become leader of the Conservative Party, Britain’s Prime Minister, and Mayor of London.

The University of Cumbria conferred its Honorary Doctorate upon Rory during a ceremony (on Thursday 23 November) celebrating hundreds of international graduands who gathered from almost 50 different countries.

Previously listed by Esquire Magazine as one of the 75 most influential figures of the 21st Century, Rory’s global focus, charitable work, strategic leadership, and connections and ambitions for Cumbria and its communities aligns with the university’s vision and mission to transform lives and livelihoods through its education, research, and applied learning.

Rory Stewart - Honorary Doctorate

Above: University Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell confers an Honorary Doctorate upon Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE

Rory said:

“The world we see today will be so different in 20 years time and areas that the University of Cumbria is focused on, like business, innovation, enterprise, outdoor learning, education and health, they are very much things that will define the future of the world as it changes.  

“The University of Cumbria is an extraordinary place both representing history but also the future with so much diversity, innovation and dedicated teachers.  

“Cumbria is a very special  place and to be invited to receive this honorary award is such an honour. There is nowhere else in the world I’d rather receive an Honorary Degree from.” 

University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell DL said: “We are delighted to have Rory join our university community in this special way, sharing values such as our pride for and of this region together with a vision for our future and the part Cumbria plays in it through our work towards our Towards 2030 strategy and the impact we and our graduates will make.  

“As a university of and for Cumbria, it is our mission to support our graduates, those future change-makers and innovators, who will go out and follow their passions and chosen careers putting to good use the higher-level skills they develop during their time with us, helping to meet the needs of our society and communities.”   

WATCH: Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE, below, congratulates graduands and reacts to his Honorary Doctorate


Notes to editors

Photo credit: University of Cumbria/Becker Photo Carlisle


Update: 7 December 2023

Rory's visit to Carlisle's graduation ceremonies features in the latest episode of The Rest is Politics podcast (Episode 199: Question Time: Why the infected blood scandal still haunts today's politics).

It is available via Apple, Spotify: or where you regularly listen to your podcasts.