Trio of honorary graduates recognised with Leicester awards

A world-renowned space scientist, bestselling author and a Leicestershire-born entrepreneur have been recognised with honorary degrees from the University of Leicester.

The trio were conferred their awards as Leicester celebrates its first summer graduations for three years.

Dr Bridget Towle CBE, who was one of only three female CEOs in the UK when she took the helm of family knitwear and hosiery company Towles plc in 1980, was named a Doctor of Laws in a ceremony on Thursday morning.

In addition to her business successes, Dr Towle also lead the Girlguiding movement – the largest youth organisation in the UK – and served on the University of Leicester’s Council for 19 years, latterly as its first female chair.

Also recognised on Thursday, space physicist Margaret Kivelson was conferred a Doctorate of Science for her longstanding research career. Her work has significantly expanded our understanding of the magnetospheres of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn.

Accepting her award, she said: “Researchers from the University of Leicester are leaders in the study of the dynamics of the magnetospheres of the outer planets, long an area of great interest to me and a focus of much of my recent research.

“Over many years, I have interacted closely with members of the space science faculty of this University and their students. Our shared interests reflect the universality of the fields of planetary sciences and space sciences and the international cooperation that has advanced those areas of study.

“The receipt of an honorary degree from this great institution links me even more closely to my distinguished colleagues across the sea and brings me great satisfaction.”

Journalist-turned-novelist Robert Harris, who was educated in Leicestershire as a boy, was awarded a Doctorate of Letters on Friday.

He was recognised for his storied career in which he has published 20 novels, seven of which have been adapted for TV or film, and many more non-fiction works on both contemporary politics and the Second World War.

Addressing the audience of Leicester graduates, their friends and families, Robert Harris said: “It is a great honour to receive this recognition from the University of Leicester. I feel a strong affinity with this part of the world. I grew up in Leicestershire, lived in the county for a decade, and was educated in the county’s schools until I went to university. It is a real pleasure to be coming back.”

Six further honorary degrees will be conferred this week as almost 7,000 Leicester students collect undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD awards.

For more information on the University of Leicester graduation celebrations, visit