University of York award Honorary Degrees

Posted on 17 January 2018

Rob Wilmot and Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya are among eight leading figures to receive honorary degrees this weekend.

Alongside six other leading figures from the world of business, performing arts, politics and journalism, Rob Wilmot and Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, are to receive honorary degrees from the University of York during the winter graduation ceremonies.

The University of York confers the honorary degree of Doctor of the University honoris causa, on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society.

The recipients of 2018 honorary degrees, which will be awarded as part of the University's winter graduation ceremonies, are:

  • Former President of the Federal Republic of Germany Professor Dr Horst Koehler.
  • Pianist, poet and author Alfred Brendel.
  • Vasily Petrenko chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Sacha Romanovitch the first woman to lead a major City accountancy firm.
  • One of the three founding executives of Freeserve, the UK’s largest Internet Service Provider, Rob Wilmot.
  • The engineer, educator and government advisor Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya.
  • Dame Vivian Hunt Managing Partner for McKinsey & Company’s United Kingdom and Ireland offices who has been identified as one of the 30 most influential people in the City of London by the Financial Times.
  • Award-winning journalist, currently based in Cairo for BBC News Orla Guerin.


Rob Wilmot was one of the three founding executives of Freeserve.

Launched by the retailer Dixon in 1998, Freeserve became the UK’s largest internet service provider in just three months, with Rob becoming one of the youngest-ever executive officers of a FTSE 100 company when Freeserve floated after only nine months.‌

He left Freeserve shortly after it was sold to France Telecom for £1.6 billion in 2001. He has since founded and invested in a number of businesses, most recently including Crowdicity, a cloud-based open innovation platform for ideas generation and knowledge transfer, and ArtLibrary, a revolutionary tool for artists to record, manage and share their works. He is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at the University, where he is helping with the commercialisation of research, including AI and machine learning.

Rob was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2013 for his work in education.

Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya began his career as graduate apprentice at Lucas, subsequently gaining an MSc and PhD in Engineering Production at the University of Birmingham.

In 1980, he became Professor of Manufacturing Systems at the University of Warwick; founding Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) to help business innovate and university researchers change lives. Today, WMG is one of the world’s top applied research centres, combining academic excellence and global business results.‌

Lord Bhattacharyya has brokered partnerships, including Jaguar Land Rover’s acquisition by Tata, advised industry and governments internationally and sat on the UK Council for Science and Technology. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

He was awarded the Padma Bhusan by the President of India and the Chinese Government Friendship Award by Vice-Premier Ma Kai.

He was appointed a CBE in 1997, knighted in 2003 for services to education and industry, and made a life peer in 2004.

WMG’s focus on advanced propulsion, low-carbon materials and digital healthcare links closely with research work underway in the Departments of Computer Science and Electronics as well as the University’s focus on environmental impact research in departments such as Chemistry.