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The Secretary-General of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award praised the University of Bolton’s work during the pandemic as he received an honorary doctorate.
John May OBE DL was awarded a Doctor of Social Science for his outstanding contribution to Young People from Baroness Helen Newlove, the University of Bolton’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
He said: “I am chuffed to bits to be with you today. And it’s a joy to be here in person rather than on the end of a Zoom call!”
Mr May received the Honorary Doctorate in a unique Covid-secure ceremony which was filmed for a special movie documenting this year’s innovative ‘Alternative Graduation’.
The University of Bolton is one of the only ones in the UK to have invited graduands from this year and last to be presented with their degrees in person and their gowns, giving them the chance to have official photographs of their special day.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a non-formal education and learning framework operating in more than 130 countries and territories around the world, through which young people’s achievements outside of academia are recognised and celebrated.
Mr May has spent his career working with and for young people in the UK and around the world.
He works with senior leaders from business, government, education and civil society to improve the opportunities and aspirations of the next generation.
He said: “I hold the University of Bolton in the highest of regard, so I feel very privileged to have been honoured by the University in this way."
“There has been a longstanding commitment here to give students the very best of experiences."
“Nothing would happen without the support and leadership of the staff of the University of Bolton. Your dedication to your students and community is exemplary and inspirational."
“The pandemic has re-written the way that we interact and how we go about our daily lives."
“It has been fantastic to see students in Bolton being allowed to excel, in and out of their formal courses, in such difficult times.”
Mr May is himself a Gold Award holder, following participation at school and university.
He trained as a teacher and has worked with children and young people in a variety of situations, ranging from schools in suburban England to refugee camps in Uganda. He became a Headteacher at 28, going on to develop a reputation for regenerating underperforming schools.
He has since been the National Education Director of Business in the Community, Chief Executive of Career Academies the UK and Chief Executive of Young Enterprise.
Mr May is a former non-executive director of UNICEF, helped to found ‘Teach First’ in the UK, and is a past Vice-Chairman of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. He is a visiting lecturer in education at Oxford Brookes University, sits on the Advisory Board of the University of Surrey’s Business School and is a trustee of the Marine Society and Sea Cadets. He is a Deputy Lieutenant for Oxfordshire.
In 2008, Mr May received The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in recognition of his long-standing dedication to enterprise education. In 2009, he received the Freedom of the City of London. In 2020, he was awarded an OBE for “services to young people”.