The awards will be presented at this year's graduation ceremonies

Each year, Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) has the opportunity to award Honorary Doctorates and Honorary Fellowships at its graduation ceremonies. BGU staff and students, retired staff and alumni and current or former University Council members were invited to nominate candidates for honorary awards.

Honorary Fellowship is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to the University; whilst Honorary Doctorate is awarded to those who have made outstanding contributions to academic achievement, social, economic or cultural life.

We're pleased to announce this year's award recipients, who will be honoured at graduation celebrations in July 2023.

Bishop Grosseteste University Vice-Chancellor Rev Canon Professor Peter Neil said: “We are proud to be awarding this year’s honorary recipients for their expertise and service in their respective roles. I am delighted to welcome them to our wider BGU community.

“Each one of them is inspirational in their own right and all serve as excellent role models for our students in how to make a positive impact on society.”

3rd July 2023

Honorary Doctorates


James Birch

James Birch and his wife Claire, own and run Doddington Hall. Six miles from Lincoln, Doddington has become a major employer with over a150 staff working in catering, retail and tourism as well as looking after the Hall and Gardens.

Prior to coming to run Doddington 2007, James spent twenty-five years working in finance, including 20 years at Goldman Sachs in New York, London, Mumbai and Hong Kong.

James has an economics degree from Cambridge and was briefly an Army Officer. He is Chairman of Chartwell, a speaker agency, is a former Chairman of the Lincoln Diocesan Board of Finance and former President of Historic Houses.

Claire Birch

With a degree in Geography from Cambridge and a life-long passion for the natural world and sustainability, Claire started her career in advertising and marketing in London. This was followed by several years at an environmental charity working on strategy, communications, events and fundraising.

When she and husband James took over Doddington Hall from her parents in 2006, she applied this experience and passion to re-invigorating this historic house and the wider estate for the 21st Century (and beyond). Their first project was to restore the walled kitchen garden to produce fruit and vegetables for a new farm shop and café needed all these skills and more; and subsequently a similar blend of knowledge about sustainability and dextrous fundraising, along with strong team-work with James has resulted in a huge range of projects from restoring C17 tapestries, installation of the first biomass boiler in the county, opening up new businesses and most recently the inspiring Wilder Doddington project with its ambition to be an exemplar of a “Natural Capital” approach - to demonstrate the full value of nature recovery: ecological, social and economic.


Charles Cormack is a visionary leader with a steadfast dedication to international higher education. As the founder and Chairman of the Cormack Consultancy Group (CCG), he has been a driving force in supporting strategic partnership development for universities globally for nearly a quarter of a century. Initially focusing on universities across Central and Eastern Europe, his company has expanded its reach across many markets, with offices in the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Australia, Lithuania and Romania and team members worldwide. The company also works with education ministries and the private sector to develop higher education projects.

Charles began his professional career in the hospitality sector, where he held various roles before being appointed as the general manager of a luxury country house hotel in the Scottish Borders. He later transitioned to the technology sector, where he played a key role in several high-growth start-ups.

In 2022, following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Charles founded the Ukraine Twinning initiative, which pairs UK and other international universities with Ukrainian universities to provide support and resources. The programme aims to offer a wide range of support to Ukrainian universities, allowing them to continue teaching and supporting students and staff. The project has quickly become the primary support project for Ukrainian higher education, with over 170 Ukrainian universities now being supported by more than 100 international partner universities. The initiative has gained support from Universities UK International (UUKi) and the British Government.

Charles has also been a passionate advocate for disadvantaged youth through his involvement in Scottish Sports Futures, which he chaired for over 19 years. This charity focuses on creating opportunities for education through sport and has become the largest charity of its kind in Scotland. Additionally, he has served as a committee member for the Lords Taverners charity in Scotland.


Born and educated in New Zealand, Judith Mayhew Jonas graduated LLM from the University of Otago, where she lectured before moving to the UK as a lecturer in law at the University of Southampton. She went on to Kings College, University of London where she was Sub Dean and Director of the Anglo-French law degree – the first joint degree in Europe.

In 1989, Judith entered private practice as an employment lawyer, and became a Special Adviser to the Chairman at Clifford Chance, the world’s largest law firm. She was elected to the City of London Corporation in 1986 and became Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee in 1996. She held the position of Leader of the Council for six years, the first woman to hold the position. In 2006 she was appointed to the Board of Directors of Merrill Lynch in New York.

Appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2002 for services to the City of London, Dame Judith became Chairman of the Royal Opera House in 2003 – again the first woman in the role. Dame Judith has also served on a number of boards of educational and cultural institutions in recent years, including being the Chairman of Birkbeck College, University of London. She was a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum and chaired its redevelopment. She is currently Joint Chair of the London/New York Dialogues, and was the founder chairman of London & Partners, the promotional and economic development company for London. Former Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University, Dame Judith is a Commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Chairs its Foundation.


Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best-selling top-selling female historian (and the fifth-bestselling historian overall). She has sold over 3 million books worldwide and done over a thousand events. She has published twenty-one history books, including Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, Elizabeth the Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, The Lady in the Tower and Elizabeth of York, her most recent being Queens of the Age of Chivalry, the third volume of her England’s Medieval Queens quartet.

Alison has also published fourteen historical novels, including the Six Tudor Queens series about the wives of Henry VIII, which was launched in 2016 to great critical acclaim; each of the six books was a Sunday Times top-ten bestseller. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose has captured the interest and imagination of countless people, instilling a love of history that has influenced the career paths of historians, historical novelists and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval and Tudor English history among people throughout the world.

Alison’s latest novel is Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown, the second book in the new Tudor Rose series. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.

For further information, please visit Alison’s websites at and

Distinguished Honorary Fellowships


Hannah Spencer is the Managing Director of a well-established training provider, LAGAT College, and has been since inception in 1987.

She has been the driving force at LAGAT, supported by a well experienced team, as well as working with Partners and Stakeholders to enhance training and education across Lincolnshire and beyond.

Hannah is a Trustee and Vice Chair of Lincolnshire Employment Accommodation Project (LEAP), which is a homeless charity, supporting individuals into housing and employment and to date they have supported over 1,500 young and adult individuals and some families too.

Hannah is an advocate of volunteering work. She has served as a magistrate in Lincoln for over 24 years, putting her knowledge and experience into supporting the local community. Hannah has also served as a Chair of Governors/Trustee for a large secondary school, again with her passion for education, learning and employment for all.

Additionally, Hannah is a Director of the Skills Training and Growth Academy, a charity supporting disadvantaged young people in creating opportunities for education leading to employment or further education.


John was born in West Yorkshire, the youngest of five children. He attended a local primary school and Cardinal Hinsley Grammar School in Bradford. On leaving school John joined ASDA as a full-time employee having worked there part-time while at school. His original career there was in the Computer Department. Then with the development and introduction of PC's/portable computers he moved into a commercial team, responsible for using new computer systems to help develop the design and layout of new stores.

After 13 years at ASDA, followed by a travelling gap year, John joined Esso and was responsible for the development program covering the North of England that introduced convenience stores onto petrol station forecourts.

In 1991, John started a Retail Consultancy business with his wife, who had a similar retail and computer background. This led to the purchase and development of the building in Lincoln, now trading as “Home”, which opened in 2011. John and his wife now have four trading businesses and employ over 160 members.

John has always been happy to contribute to the wider community and has been a member of Lincoln Big for a number of years. Having had close contacts with the university communities though Home and providing work and career opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, he was delighted to be invited by the Chief Executive Officer of Bishop Grosseteste Students’ Union to become an external trustee.

John believes the values and ethos encouraged by Bishop Grosseteste University and the Students’ Union, are exceptional and unique within the higher education field and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to contribute in some small way.

Related Posts

Spring Campus 6 1

BGU lecturer secures grant bid of over £8000 from LPFT

IMG 7538 copy

BGU Historian Contributes to Routledge Handbook of French History

Katie Downes

Recent Graduate Nominated for British Education Award

Grad Ceremony 1 13

Six Professorial Titles Awarded to BGU Academics

Book Launch Banner 3

New research exploring Lincoln’s burial grounds set to launch

Microsoft Teams image 18

Sandford Awards recognise 43 educational heritage sites