Previous recipients

Previous year's honorary graduands.


Amani Abou-Zeid

Amani Abou-Zeid

Dr Amani Abou-Zeid is the twice-elected African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalisation.

For more than 35 years she has served in international organisations, leading and implementing national, regional and cross-continental infrastructure projects in Africa, such as the Single African Air Transport Market, Africa’s Single Electricity Market, and the Digital Transformation Strategy.

Her many academic qualifications include a PhD in Socio-Economic Development from The University of Manchester – from which she has also received an Outstanding Alumni Award.

Edward Astle

Edward Astle

Edward Astle is Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee of Openreach, Chair of the charity upReach – which helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds to get top graduate jobs – and a trustee of the Lakeland Arts Trust.

He spent most of his career in the telecoms and utilities sectors, where he served on the boards of Cable and Wireless, BICC and National Grid. He was also Pro-Rector Enterprise at Imperial College London.

Edward was Chair of the Board of Governors at The University of Manchester from September 2016 to August 2022.

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie Hesmondhalgh is a Manchester-based actor, writer, theatre-maker and activist.

She set up Arts Threshold Theatre in the early 1990s and co-runs Take Back, a political theatre collective, as well as fundraising group 500 Acts of Kindness. Julie is a patron and supporter of many organisations, including the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Reuben’s Retreat and Arts Emergency.

Her theatre work includes The Greatest Play in the History of the World; Mother Courage and Her Children; and The Almighty Sometimes; and her TV credits include Coronation Street; Dr Who; Catastrophe; and Broadchurch.


Sherry Contu

Sherry Coutu

Sherry Coutu is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who serves on the boards of companies, charities and government. She has founded several of her own companies and serves as a non-executive member of several more.

In November 2014, Sherry authored the Scale-Up Report which urged the UK government to support scale-ups as well as start-ups. Following the report, the ScaleUp Institute was created.

Sherry supports The Prince’s Trust, the Francis Crick Institute and Founders4Schools, a charity that helps to improve the employability of young people.

Elizabeth Anionwu

Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

Professor Dame Elizabeth, a University of Manchester alumna, is Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London and has held senior executive roles at various health organisations.

She was appointed as the UK’s first sickle cell/thalassaemia nurse counsellor and was Head of the Brent Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Information and Screening Centre from 1979 to 1990.

Elizabeth established and was Head of the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at the University of West London. On her retirement, Elizabeth was honoured with the award of Emeritus Professor of Nursing.

Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany is a Belgian professional footballer and manager who played centre-back for Manchester City Football Club for 11 years and captained the side from 2011 to 2019. He led the club to win the 2011–12 Premier League – their first league title in 44 years – and was named at player of the season.

In July 2019 he became the player-manager at RSC Anderlecht of the Belgian First Division, the club where he started his professional football career aged 17.

Vincent is of Congolese heritage and is an official FIFA ambassador for the charity SOS Children, which aims to provide an education and safe accommodation for at-risk children across the world.

Lord Jim O’Neill

Lord Jim O’Neill

Lord Jim O’Neill is the current Chair of Chatham House. His previous roles include joint Head of Research (1995–2000), Chief Economist (2001–10) and Chairman of the Asset Management Division (2010–13) at Goldman Sachs; Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (2015-16); Chair of the City Growth Commission (2014); and Chair of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (2014–16).

He is the creator of the economic acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Lord O’Neill is a Board Member and one of the founding trustees of educational charity SHINE. He was created a life peer in 2015 and serves as a crossbench member of the House of Lords.