University of Leicester eBulletin

University of Leicester to Honour Leading Figures in Science

September 2002

Accolades for distinguished personalities during British Association’s Festival of Science

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Monday 9 September 2002 at 4.20 pm in the Queen’s Hall, Percy Gee Building, University of Leicester

In celebration of the fact that the UK’s biggest science festival is being held at the University of Leicester, honorary degrees are to be conferred on two of the Festival’s senior officers.

Sir Howard Newby, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (2001-2002) will receive the honorary degree of DLitt and Dr Peter Briggs, Chief Executive (1990-2002) will receive the honorary degree of DSc.

The degree congregation will form part of the opening ceremony for the BA Festival of Science 2002, which will take place at the University from Monday 9 September to Friday 13 September.

Dr Briggs commented: "I am delighted and privileged to be awarded an honorary degree by the University on the occasion of its hosting the British Association’s 163rd Annual Meeting/Festival of Science.

"The BA is dedicated to creating better links between science and the public, something that is probably more important in today’s world than ever before. Science impacts on people’s lives in a variety of ways and many of them can be seen in this University and City.

"Astronomy and space exploration excite people’s imaginations and help us to gain a better understanding of the universe and our place in it. So I am delighted that the National Space Centre, related as it is to the University’s proud reputation in these areas, is proving to be such a success.

"Similarly, the world class work undertaken in the University’s Genetics Department, especially in the development of genetic fingerprinting, reminds us of the practical benefits that scientific advance can have on our lives.

"The BA Festival is an opportunity for the public to engage with science in a unique way, and I am looking forward to a memorable week in Leicester."

Science and the Quality of Life is this year’s theme for the BA Festival, which is held annually at different universities throughout the country. This year’s event will attract 400 top international scientists and science communicators and reveal the latest developments in research.

A total of 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at the University, as well as thousands of students of all ages and members of the public interested in science.

University of Leicester Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Burgess said: "We are delighted to honour two people who have contributed so much to the public understanding of science. The fact that the Festival returns to the University of Leicester for the third time since 1921, and during a year in which we are celebrating its 80th anniversary, is an added pleasure for us. To open the Festival with an acknowledgement of the roles Sir Howard Newby and Dr Peter Briggs play in the promotion of science and higher education is a fitting tribute."

Sir Howard Newby, outgoing President of the BA, began his presidency at last year’s BA Festival of Science, shortly before he also became Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

He had previous been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, following a term as Chairman and later Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council. He was formerly Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex and has held visiting appointments in Australia and the United States, where from 1980-83 he was Professor of Sociology and Rural Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Sir Howard has published many books and articles on social change in rural England, and was for eight years a Rural Development Commissioner, a member of the government body responsible for the economic and social regeneration of rural England. From 1983-88 he was Director of the then SSRC (later ESRC) Data Archive, for use by researchers in the public and private sectors.

He has served on a number of government bodies concerned with the funding of UK research. From 1995-99 he was Chair of CEST (Centre for the Exploitation of Science and Technology), a charitable body promoting technological innovation in industry, academia and government. From 1993-96 he was a member of the Executive Council of the European Foundation.

In August 2001 Sir Howard ended his two-year term as President of Universities UK, the body which represents the university sector.

He was awarded a CBE in 1995 for his services to social science and a knighthood in 2000 for his services to higher education.

Dr Peter Briggs, outgoing Chief Executive and formerly Executive Secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science started his career as a Junior Research Fellow in Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. In 1971 he became Research Assistant in the Department of Architecture at the University of Bristol, and in 1973 Deputation Secretary in the Methodist Church Overseas Division. Dr Briggs was Area Secretary with Christian Aid, BCC, between 1977-80.

He joined the BA as Education Manager in 1980, became Public Affairs Manager in 1986 and Departmental Secretary in 1988-90. Two years later he became a Member of Council in the International Council for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy. Dr Briggs has been Secretary for the Association of British Science Writers since 1986.

Between 1983-86 Dr Briggs was Chairman of the Management Committee of the Methodist Church Division of Social Responsibility, and between 1984-92 served on the Methodist Youth World Affairs Management Committee. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1990.

Note to editors:

Sir Howard Newby will receive the honorary degree of DLitt and Dr Peter Briggs the honorary degree of DSc at a special degree congregation at the University of Leicester on Monday 9 September 2002 at 4.30 pm in the Queen’s Hall, Percy Gee Building, on the University’s main campus. The event will immediately precede the BA Festival of Science Presidential Address.

Jpeg images of Sir Howard Newby and Dr Peter Briggs are available from the University of Leicester Press Office, telephone 0116 252 2415, facsimile 0116 252 2485, email

Details of the BA Festival of Science are available from the BA website,

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