National poet and equalities campaigner receive university honours

Professor Kathleen Jamie and Dr Sally Witcher received honorary degrees from Stirling University.

National poet and equalities campaigner tell of delight at University of Stirling honorary degrees Elaine Livingstone/Stirling University

Scotland’s national poet and a high-profile campaigner on disability and inequality have received honorary degrees.

The pair were recognised for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields at a ceremony at the University of Stirling on Friday attended by more than 500 students.

Professor Kathleen Jamie, who was appointed as Scotland’s Makar in 2021 and is a former professor of creative writing at Stirling, was recognised for her work in literature.

“I am delighted to have received this honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling,” she said.

“It is indeed an honour, and I will cherish it as a reminder of the decade I spent here at the university, teaching creative writing. I was blessed with wonderful students and colleagues: warm, smart and talented.

“This was a wholly unexpected award, and I am very happy to have shared this day with the other graduates. I wish them all the best for their futures.”

During her time at the university, Prof Jamie was commissioned to write Stone To The Sun, a poem which captures the spirit of the Garden Of Time – an on-campus space created to celebrate the institution’s 50th anniversary in 2017.

The award-winning poet, essayist and author of non-fiction, who grew up in Currie near Edinburgh, was elected as fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009, was honoured by the Royal Geographical Society in 2017, and was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2018.

She has won numerous awards for her work, which is written in English and Scots, including the 2016 Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award for her 51-poem collection The Bonniest Companie, which explores Scotland and her place within it.

Meanwhile Dr Sally Witcher, who was made an OBE in 2006 for her services to people with disabilities, received an honorary doctorate for her outstanding contribution to improvements in the lives of disabled people.

Dr Witcher has held a range of senior leadership roles during her esteemed career, which has centred on campaigning on disability, inequality and exclusion.

Dr Sally Witcher received an honorary degree from the University of Stirling

These have included chair of the Scottish Commission on Social Security, chief executive at Inclusion Scotland, deputy director in the Department for Work and Pensions’ office for disability issues, chair of the UK Government’s Disability Employment Advisory Committee, and director of the UK Child Poverty Action Group.

She said: “It is a great honour and a wonderful surprise to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling for my efforts to rethink poverty, inequality and exclusion and find creative, workable solutions that positively impact disabled people’s lives.

“To do this has also meant developing new ways of working closely with all who have a role to play, giving a central place to the real experts – people with lived experience.

“In accepting this doctorate, I, in turn, would like to honour everyone working collaboratively for a much-needed better future.”

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Stirling, congratulated all those graduating, adding: “We also send our warmest congratulations to Professor Kathleen Jamie and Dr Sally Witcher on their honorary doctorates – they are making a real difference in their respective fields and are excellent, inspirational role models for our students and graduates.”

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