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Collage image of Charlotte Riley, Benj Sykes, Robert Senior and Mike Barton

Charlotte Riley, the award-winning actor and campaigner, will receive an honorary degree at our graduation ceremonies this week.

Along with Charlotte, there will be also honorary degrees for advertising veteran and former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Robert Senior, former Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton, and renewable energy expert, Benj Sykes.

Acting career

Charlotte Riley, who was born in Stockton-on-Tees and studied English at Durham University, will receive a Doctor of Letters.

Alongside a distinguished acting career with acclaimed roles in The Edge of Tomorrow, In The Heart of The Sea, Peaky Blinders and upcoming Amazon Original Series, The Peripheral, Charlotte has dedicated herself to helping families in the film and TV industry by launching The WonderWorks nursery brand.

Keeping families in film

In 2020, Riley launched a permanent WonderWorks nursery site at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. The Ofsted registered childcare facility provides quality, flexible care for those working on productions or on the site.

To launch the nursery, Riley and The WonderWorks team wrote an open letter encouraging more industry leaders to help “Keep Families in Film”, garnering widespread support from fellow actors. 

Inspiring people

Former Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton, will receive a Doctor of Civil Law. Barton, who received a CBE for services to policing in 2019, joined the police force in 1980. In his time, he led Durham Constabulary to four successive outstanding ratings in annual PEEL inspections and the highest crime-detection rates in the country.

Advertising veteran and former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Robert Senior, will be awarded a Doctor of Civil Law in recognition of his achievements to industry and philanthropy.

As one of the world’s leading advertising executives, Senior’s creative thinking helped to define numerous global brands including the BBC, Sony, T-Mobile, Cadbury and Nike.

Born in Middlesbrough, Senior graduated from Durham University with a degree in History and Politics and went on to enjoy an advertising career spanning thirty years.

In recognition of his leading role in the field of renewable energy, Benj Sykes will receive a Doctor of Science. He is the UK Offshore Head of Market Development, Consenting and External Affairs for the renewable energy company Ørsted and has a long-standing involvement with the University and our Durham Energy Institute.

A total of 17 graduation ceremonies will take place in the magnificent setting of Durham Cathedral from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April, celebrating the academic achievements of 3,600 students from 120 countries.

Find out more

  • For more info on our Spring Congregation 2022, including the timetable of ceremonies visit the Ceremonies webpages
  • Watch Spring Congregation 2022 online
  • As part of her visit to Durham, Charlotte Riley will take part in a live ‘Fireside Chat’ at 14:30 on Thursday 31 March 2022. Places for this free event can be booked online.