Honorary fellows and graduates

Each year, SOAS awards a small number of honorary fellowships and honorary degrees to figures of exceptional achievement in areas related to the School's work.

    December 2022 awardees

    Figures from the African diaspora in social activism, linguistics and sustainable development were honoured during the winter graduation celebrations in December 2022. For biographical information on the awardees, see the news release.

    Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, pan-African activist

    SOAS conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Literature in recognition of Akyaaba’s substantial contribution to pan-African activism, his role in developing the recognition of October as Black History Month in the UK and his numerous publications including Our Story: A Handbook of African History and Contemporary Issues, published following the first Black History Month in the UK.   

    Misan Harriman, photographer and social activist

    SOAS conferred an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of in recognition of Misan’s significant contribution as a campaigner for diversity and inclusion and his photographic work in representing contemporary protests, including the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights in Iran and Extinction Rebellion. Most recently he is using his camera to help bring attention to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. 

    Sanda Ojiambo, leader in global sustainable development

    SOAS conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Literature in recognition of Sanda’s substantial contribution to global sustainable development, through the NGO sector, the private sector and United Nations. Most recently, in her role as CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations,  she has led the launch and execution of an ambitious strategy for private sector engagement in Africa's sustainable development. 

    Farouk Topan, educator and scholar

    SOAS conferred an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of Farouk’s substantial contribution to the teaching and promotion of the Swahili language and literature and as a renowned Swahili author worldwide. SOAS recognises Farouk’s extensive work at the university, introducing and designing the MA African Studies course, the year abroad to East Africa and the digital Swahili manuscripts housed at the SOAS library.

    July 2022 awardees

    Figures in economics, the arts, peace-building, leadership and development were honoured during summer graduation celebrations in summer 2022. For biographical information on the awardees, see the news release.

    Ann Pettifor, political economist 

    Ann will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her remarkable contribution to political economy, particularly her leadership of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for the cancellation of approximately $100 billion of debt owed by some of the world’s poorest countries. 

    Yōko Tawada, writer, novelist, playwright and poet 

    SOAS is conferring a Honorary Doctor of Literature in recognition of Yōko’s substantial contribution to the literary world. Her work exploring themes including boundaries, the environment, language, and the mismatch between words and reality, 'has addressed some of the most vital themes of our era'. 

    Ilwad Elman, social activist 

    SOAS is conferring a Doctor of Law degree for Ilwad’s substantial contribution to social activism, advocacy for human rights and countering violent extremism, and work in raising international awareness for peace-building in Somalia. 

    Hassan Musa, artist 

    Hassan Musa will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his long-standing collaborations with SOAS, both institutionally and with individual staff and students, and his generous support of the Centre of African Studies and the School of Arts both through use of his artworks and by his presence.

    Marie Staunton, former Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees and international development expert 

    SOAS is conferring an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of Marie’s distinguished service and leadership during her tenure as Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees between July 2016 and January 2022. 

    Past awardees


    Nominations are normally considered by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee (HDFC) during the spring term of each session. The Committee is Chaired by the Director and includes lay members of the Board of Trustees as well as staff and student members.

    The Committee makes recommendations to the School's Board of Trustees for the award of Honorary Fellowships and Honorary Degrees.

    This process can be a lengthy one, which is why it is necessary to adhere to the deadline set. Awards are normally made at the graduation ceremonies in the year following the session in which nominations are made.

    There are clearly stated criteria for the award of both Honorary Degrees and Honorary Fellowships and these are set out below. The criteria are also listed in the guidelines for those wishing to make nominations. The guidelines include a copy of the form which must be used for all nominations. It is important to recognise that an Honorary Degree is neither superior to nor inferior to an Honorary Fellowship. They are distinct awards given for different reasons.

    The outcome of this process remains confidential until after the Board of Trustees has made a decision about the nominations recommended to it by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee, and the individuals concerned have been contacted.

    Each nomination must be made by one person. Nominations will not be accepted where more than one nominator is listed on the form.

    Strict confidentiality must be maintained throughout the nomination process. Nominators must not discuss their nomination with anyone, unless asked to do so by the Committee Chair or Committee Secretary.

    It is important to recognise that the School only makes a small number of awards in each session. This means that it is not possible to make awards to all nominees who meet the criteria, and this should not be seen as reflecting in any way on the quality of the nominee. In order to avoid causing embarrassment to any individual and/or confusion, it is essential that nominees are not informed that they have been put forward for an award.

    No public announcement will be made until the Board of Trustees has met, and the nominees have agreed to an award being made.

    Further information can be obtained via the SOAS Governance Team: governance@soas.ac.uk.