Honorary degree for top problem solver and policy adviser

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Sir Alan Wilson (right), chief executive of The Alan Turing Institute, professor of urban and regional systems at University College London and chair of the Home Office Science Advisory Council, will receive an honorary degree from the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Sir Alan is an elected Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society. He will collect his Doctor of Literature honoris causa at the School’s annual degree ceremony on 8 December 2017.

The honour recognises Sir Alan’s outstanding contributions to higher education in a career spanning more than 50 years, during which he built up a reputation for solving complicated problems.

In February 2004, he became the government's first director general of higher education and key adviser to three secretaries of state for education – Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly and Alan Johnson – at a pivotal moment in the history of the sector. As a senior civil servant his duties included helping the government to smooth the way for top-up fees, widen access to higher education and build a deeper relationship with industry.

From 2011–2013, he was chair of the lead expert group for the Government Office for Science’s ‘Foresight future of cities project’, which looked at the opportunities and challenges facing UK cities over the next 50 years and, from 2007–2013, was chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Roger Kain, CBE, FBA, dean and chief executive of the School of Advanced Study (SAS), describes Sir Alan as a true polymath who has contributed significantly to the humanities and higher education.

‘In his six years as chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Sir Alan was instrumental in building the confidence of the arts and humanities academic communities in the strategic direction and operational effectiveness of the Council. This honour recognises his past and continuing achievements across many disciplines, which resonate absolutely with the School’s mission and ethos.’

A mathematician and quantitative geographer, Sir Alan has published extensively including some pioneering papers modelling market potential of city sites and transport and related systems. Many of his model building techniques are in common use internationally.

Commenting on his honorary doctorate Sir Alan, who is currently researching the evolution of cities and the dynamics of global trade, migration, security and development aid, says: ‘I am both delighted and humbled by this award and I thank the university. It reflects work I have done with a range of institutions and of course the contributions my colleagues have made in these places are implicitly recognised and I am grateful to them. I am particularly touched to have my contributions to the humanities recognised by this degree.’


Notes for editors

  1. For all enquiries, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations OfficerSAS, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk 
  2. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2015-16, SAS: welcomed 786 research fellows and associates; held 2,007 research dissemination events; received 24.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at http://www.sas.ac.uk or on Twitter at @SASNews.
  3. The University of London is a federal university and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the university is recognised globally as a world leader in higher education. Its members are 18 self-governing institutions of outstanding reputation, and nine research institutes. Learn more about the University of London at http://www.london.ac.uk.
  4. Professor Sir Alan Wilson is an elected fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society, and was knighted for services to higher education in 2001. A mathematician and quantitative geographer who has published extensively including some pioneering papers modelling market potential of city sites and transport and related systems, he has also contributed significantly to the humanities and higher education. Sir Alan was chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2007–13). He was vice-chancellor of University of Leeds from 1991–2004 and director general of Higher Education at the DfES, 2004–6. He is currently professor of urban and regional systems at UCL and was appointed chief executive of The Alan Turing Institute in 2016. Sir Alan chairs the Home Office Science Advisory Council.