School of Advanced Study awards honorary degrees to eminent lawyer and acclaimed artist

Tuesday 21 October 2014

One of the most senior Government lawyers and an acclaimed surrealist painter are to receive honorary degrees from the University of London’s School of Advanced Study this year, continuing its recognition of outstanding contributions to education and research.  

Sir Stephen Laws, KCB, QC who was the first non-Oxbridge graduate to hold the post of First Parliamentary Counsel - one of the three most senior lawyers in the Civil Service - will receive a Doctor of Laws honoris causa. He was the first in his family to go to university and is actively involved in encouraging people who might not otherwise have done so to consider going into higher education.  

'Since first joining the public service, nearly 40 years ago, it has been my privilege - and a delight - to be involved in working with others to puzzle out answers to many fascinating problems’, said Sir Stephen Laws. ‘I owe a great debt of gratitude to those who trained me in the law and encouraged me to brave the opportunities it presented. I hope my example and this recognition will encourage others to believe that similar careers are possible for them.’  

Among the legislation Sir Stephen Laws worked on in the Parliamentary Counsel Office are the Race Relations Act 1977, the Telecommunications Act 1984, most of the Finance Bills of the 1990s and, in the 2000s, various pieces of anti-terrorism legislation. He has also chaired the Civil Service benevolent fund (now the Charity for Civil Servants), which provides support to current and former members of the Civil Service who are facing hardship. As a constitutional adviser he was involved in completing the devolution to a power sharing system in Northern Ireland in 2007, and was an important player during the historic transition to a coalition Government in 2010. In 2012-13, he was a member of the McKay Commission, which looked into the ‘West Lothian Question’.   

Credit Lawrence Lowry

Patrick Hughes is well respected in the art world for his ‘reverspective’ works - pieces inspired by optics, perspective and illusion. He is an artist, designer, teacher and writer, and for some time has been working with the School’s Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes) in the Institute of Philosophy, which pioneers collaborative research between philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. His Doctor of Science honoris causa recognises this research, which has involved experiments using his ‘reverspective’ paintings in combination with an MRI scanner to determine the parts of the brain which process spatial clues.   

Commenting on his award Patrick Hughes said: ‘I have been absorbed in the science of perception and perspective since I started making art, so to be honoured by the University with a Doctor of Science degree is the culmination of fifty years of study, to be continued.’ This year, his work has appeared in solo shows in New York, London, Knokke-le-Zoute and Seoul.  

Professor Roger Kain CBE FBA, Dean and Chief Executive of the School of Advanced Study, said: ‘The outstanding work of Sir Stephen Laws and Patrick Hughes embodies the principles of the School of Advanced Study. These leaders in their fields have developed strong relationships with academia, generously giving back their time, knowledge and experience.’  

The graduation ceremony takes place on 12 December 2014.  

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information please contact Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653 / Images available on request.

2. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights.

3. Sir Stephen Laws, KCB, QC is a British lawyer and former civil servant who served as the First Parliamentary Counsel between 2006 and 2012. He read law at Bristol, graduating with a first in 1972 and lectured in law the university for a year after graduating. He was called to the Bar in 1973 and, after a brief period in practice as a barrister, joined the Home Office as a legal assistant in 1975. He transferred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in 1976, working at different levels as a Parliamentary Counsel until his appointment to lead the Office as First Parliamentary Counsel and Permanent Secretary from 1 August 2006. As such he became, with the Treasury Solicitor and the Director of Public Prosecutions, one of the three most senior lawyers in the Civil Service.

4. Patrick Hughes is a leading British artist widely recognised as one of the major painters of contemporary British art. He is also a designer, teacher and writer who has published a number of books including three on visual and verbal rhetoric. His works are part of many public collections including: the British Library and the Tate Gallery, London; the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; The Deutsche Bibliotheek, Frankfurt and the Denver Art Museum. His work is now regularly exhibited in London at Flowers galleries, and he has had exhibitions in throughout Europe, South East Asia, America and Canada. His most recent book is Paradoxymoron, Foolish Wisdom in words and pictures.