Peer who led controversial racism inquiry awarded honorary degree by University of Buckingham

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Tony Sewell attracted criticism over findings of government inquiry on racism he led

The University of Buckingham has awarded an honorary doctorate to Lord Sewell, after his own former university retracted their offer.

In 2019, it was announced that Tony Sewell, founder and chair of the charity Generating Genius, would receive an honorary degree from the University of Nottingham.

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But Nottingham withdrew the offer after Sewell became the subject of political controversy when he led a government inquiry on racism in the UK that found there was racial disparity but not institutional racism.

University vice-chancellor James Tooley and Lord SewellUniversity vice-chancellor James Tooley and Lord Sewell
University vice-chancellor James Tooley and Lord Sewell

After Lord Sewell was awarded a life peerage in December, University of Buckingham vice-chancellor James Tooley was invited to his Lords inauguration in January.

The University of Buckingham, which has always encouraged those with strong views to be able to air them regardless of their political stance, has now awarded Lord Sewell an honorary doctorate.

In 1986, the university awarded an honorary degree to Margaret Thatcher, who officially opened the uni in the 1970s, after her own former university, Oxford, refused to do so.

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The organisation Academics For Academic Freedom, which campaigns for free speech for academics, founded by Derby University professor of education Dennis Hayes, has opened a branch at Buckingham, which has a reputation for defending free speech and opposing no-platforming.

Vice-chancellor James Tooley said: “One of the founding principles of the university was independent thinking. We have always offered a home to those with strong views backed by academic argument.

"I was honoured to be at Lord Sewell’s Lords inauguration and we are delighted he accepted an Honorary Doctorate from Buckingham.”