Press release

University to honour former Principal, leading figures at Graduation

Published on 8 June 2023

Professor Sir Pete Downes, former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee, will this month receive an honorary degree from the institution he led for a decade.

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Sir Pete is among six individuals who will be honoured at the University’s Summer Graduation ceremonies, where thousands of graduands will cross the stage and be tapped with the traditional Dundee bonnet.

Sir Pete was Principal of the University for ten years before stepping down at the end of 2018.

He is being honoured for his great scientific achievements, his contribution to the University over 30 years, and his impact on civic life in Dundee, including helping to bring the V&A to Dundee and pushing forward the Tay Cities Region Deal.

Three of the other people receiving honorary degrees – Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, and Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter – are being recognised in part for their outstanding leadership in the Covid pandemic.

There are also awards for Scottish artist Andrew Crummy MBE, an alumnus of the University,  and Dr Ollie Folayan MBE, an outstanding advocate for equality and diversity in the engineering sector.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said, “I am delighted to welcome Sir Pete Downes back to the University, and all of our honorary graduates, who have made such a startling impact in their respective fields.

“In awarding honorary degrees, we are marking the achievements of individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to society, and who can inspire our students, staff and others. All of those we will be honouring at Graduation this month exceed that standard.”

The honorary Doctor of Laws degrees will be conferred at the graduation ceremonies taking place from June 20 to June 23 at the Caird Hall in Dundee, one of the major celebrations on the University calendar.

The full timetable for honorary graduates, who are given their degrees at the end of each ceremony, is:

  • Tuesday 20 June (afternoon ceremony) – Professor Sir Pete Downes and Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen
  • Thursday 22 June (morning ceremony) Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter
  • Thursday 22 June (afternoon ceremony) – Andrew Crummy MBE
  • Friday 23 June (morning ceremony) – Dr Ollie Folayan MBE
  • Friday 23 June (afternoon ceremony) – Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE


Professor Spiegelhalter will also be delivering the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science Annual Lecture 2023 on Wednesday 21 June at 6pm in the Dalhousie Building, on the topic of Communicating Statistical Evidence in Court and in Public Inquiries.


Notes to editors

There will be photo opportunities before each ceremony (from 9.15am and 1.45pm) in the Robing Room of the City Chambers on City Square.


Graduation ceremonies start at 10am and 2.30pm.

There is also opportunity for filming/photography during the ceremonies in the Caird Hall.


Honorary graduate biographies

Tuesday 20 June, 2.30pm ceremony

Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen is being honoured for her outstanding contribution to ophthalmology and medical leadership, including her valuable work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dame Carrie is a consultant ophthalmologist for NHS Tayside and Honorary Professor at the University of Dundee. In May 2022 she was appointed as Chair of the General Medical Council.

She served as Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges until 2020 and is past President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

She was awarded a damehood in The Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2021 in recognition of her services to Ophthalmology and Healthcare Leadership during the Covid-19 response.


Professor Sir Pete Downes is a former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee and a leading figure in the pharmaceutical industry.

He is being honoured for his great scientific achievements, his contribution to the University over 30 years – ten of them spent as Principal and Vice-Chancellor – and his impact on civic life in Dundee, including helping to bring the V&A to Dundee and pushing forward the Tay Cities Region Deal.

Pete joined the University in 1989 as Professor of Biochemistry. He subsequently became Head of Department, then a Vice-Principal and Head of what was then the College of Life Sciences. In 2009, he was appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

He was Convener of Universities Scotland from 2012 to 2016 and has been President of the Biochemical Society since 2018.

Throughout his scientific career he was one of the world’s top 1% of scientists in his field. He made fundamental discoveries of mechanisms contributing to important diseases including diabetes and cancer, fuelling drug discovery programmes with collaborating pharmaceutical companies. His research helped to raise more than £60 million of competitive external funding for Dundee via medical charities and industry.

Sir Pete was given an OBE in 2004 for services to life sciences and was then knighted in the Queen's 2015 Birthday Honours for services to Higher Education and Life Sciences.


Thursday 22 June, 10am ceremony

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter is being honoured for his outstanding work to improve the way quantitative evidence is used in society, and to make statistics, risk and how they influence decision making more understandable to millions of people.

This is a vital aspect of the work the University is engaged in through our Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science.

Sir David is Emeritus Professor of Statistics in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He was previously Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, which aimed to improve the way that statistical evidence is used by health professionals, patients, lawyers and judges, media and policymakers. His extensive knowledge in this field was crucial throughout the Covid pandemic.

He presented the BBC4 documentaries Tails you Win: the Science of Chance and the award-winning Climate Change by Numbers. His bestselling book, The Art of Statistics, was published in March 2019, and Covid by Numbers came out in September 2021. His career highlights include appearing on Desert Island Discs in 2022 and finishing seventh in an episode of BBC1’s Winter Wipeout!

He was knighted in 2014 for services to medical statistics, was President of the Royal Statistical Society from 2017-2018, and became a Non-Executive Director of the UK Statistics Authority in 2020.


Thursday 22 June 2.30pm ceremony

Andrew Crummy MBE is being honoured for his outstanding work in illustrating Scotland’s history, culture and heritage through magnificent community art works such as the Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.

Born in Craigmillar, Edinburgh, which is often seen as a deprived area, Andrew’s introduction to art came through the Craigmillar Festival Society, leading to childhood memories full of community arts events involving festivals, drama, music, clowns, colour and laughter.

He trained as an illustrator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, then on an MA Design course at Glasgow School of Art, before embarking on a successful professional career working for bands, newspapers and magazines and design agencies.

He has been involved with many mural projects around the world and, over the past 20 years, has been the designer for The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry, The Great Tapestry of Scotland and The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.

He still illustrates the occasional book, paints skyscapes, murals, portraits and draws with a 2B pencil.

He was awarded an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours List for services to art and to cultural heritage in Scotland.


Friday 23 June, 10am ceremony

Dr Ollie Folayan MBE is being honoured for his outstanding work on improving diversity and inclusion in engineering, particularly for Black and Minority Ethnic students and professionals.

Dr Folayan is the Head of Process and Safety at engineering consultancy Optimus Plus Aberdeen and the co-founder of AFBE-UK, the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers.

He has championed successful outreach programmes such as Making Engineering Hot, NextGen (Scotland) and Transition and Real Projects. He has also co-authored three publications on the influence of role models in the transition from academic study to the workplace and on the sustainability of the engineering profession in the UK.

Dr Folayan was a member of the All Energy Diversity and Inclusion task group set up in 2019 by Oil and Gas UK and has been a judge of the Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards, the Offshore Achievement Awards, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering Awards and the Oil and Gas UK Awards. He was a finalist in the Mentor of the Year category at OGUK Awards in 2021 and finalist in the Diversity Hero category at the Herald Awards in 2021. He was awarded the Diversity and Inclusion Award by the Institution of Chemical Engineering (IChemE) in 2021.

Dr Folayan was awarded an MBE for services to diversity and inclusion in engineering in the King's First New Year Honours List in 2023.


Friday 23 June, 2.30pm ceremony

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE is being honoured for his outstanding leadership in primary care, including throughout the Covid pandemic, and his considerable contribution to research in diabetes and vascular medicine.

Professor Khunti is Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester. He is Director of Leicester Diabetes Centre, Director of the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in Applied Research Collaborations (ARC) East Midlands, Director of Centre for Ethnic Health Research and Director of The RealWorld Evidence Unit.

He led a programme of work during the Covid-19 pandemic and is a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Chair of the SAGE Ethnicity Subpanel.

Professor Khunti was named as top Type 2 diabetes researcher globally by Expertscape and has published over 1200 peer-reviewed articles.

He has won numerous awards nationally and internationally and was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 New Year’s Honour’s List for services to health.


Roddy Isles

Head of Corporate Communication

+44 (0)1382 384910
Story category Graduation, Public interest