Screenwriter, chef, public health expert, and Buddhist scholar to receive SOAS’s 2023 honorary degrees

SOAS University of London will award honorary degrees to four distinguished individuals at graduation ceremonies next week.

Pictured above: SOAS's four honorary awardees, left to right: Javed Akhter, Asma Khan, Kevin Fenton CBE, and Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.

The recipients, who have all made significant contributions in their respective fields and have positively impacted society at large, are: 

Javed Akhtar - Doctor of Literature (DLit) 

A luminary in Indian cinema and literature, Javed Akhtar's impact spans across writing, activism, and leadership. As an award-winning scriptwriter, lyricist, poet, and activist, Akhtar's work has touched the hearts and minds of millions. His dedication to social justice, as reflected in his instrumental role in copyright reform, and his outspoken stance against religious fundamentalism highlight his commitment to a better society. Akhtar's accolades include numerous awards for his cinematic contributions, such as National Awards and Film Fare Awards, and recognition as a distinguished poet and writer. His recent recognition with the Richard Dawkins Award further underscores his influence as a thought leader. 

Asma Khan - Doctor of Science (Social Sciences) (DSc(SocSc)) 

Renowned chef, bestselling cookbook author, and owner of Darjeeling Express restaurant in London, Asma Khan has reshaped the culinary landscape with her innovative approach to food and her commitment to social change. As the first British chef profiled in Netflix's Emmy-nominated "Chef's Table" series and a Vogue 25 Most Influential Women awardee, Khan's impact transcends borders. Her all-female kitchen team and dedication to inclusivity have earned her recognition as a trailblazer. Khan's accomplishments also extend beyond the culinary world, including her role on the Mayor's Business Advisory Board and an Honorary Fellowship at Oxford University. She holds a PhD in British Constitutional Law from King's College London and now an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS University of London. Asma is on the advisory Commitee for the Ramadan Tent Project. She has led the Ramadan food tent initiative at SOAS for many years, SOAS hopes to revive the Ramadan tent with the support and leadership of Asma. 

Professor Kevin Fenton CBE MBBS (Hons) MSc PhD FFPH - Doctor of Literature (DLit) 

A trailblazer in the field of public health, Professor Kevin Fenton's leadership and expertise have been paramount, particularly during the global COVID-19 pandemic. His roles across governmental and academic spheres in the UK and internationally have contributed to shaping effective responses to public health challenges. His dedication to reducing health inequalities and addressing infectious diseases has earned him a CBE and significant recognition, including being named as second most influential black person in Britain by Powerlist. As the President of the UK Faculty of Public Health and a prominent advisor on HIV, Fenton's contributions continue to impact public health on a national and global scale. 

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche - Fellow 

Internationally acclaimed Buddhist scholar and teacher, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, has been a prominent advocate for the nonsectarian Rimé tradition. Rinpoche's dedication to spreading Buddhist teachings and establishing centers for learning and meditation across continents underscores his commitment to global spiritual and humanitarian advancement. His extensive contributions include founding organisations such as Siddhartha's Intent International, Khyentse Foundation, and 84000, which aims to translate all of the Buddha's teachings into English. With an academic background that includes studies at SOAS University of London and lectures at esteemed institutions worldwide, Rinpoche's influence on modern Buddhism is immeasurable. 

SOAS University of London confers honorary degrees to individuals whose outstanding achievements and commitment to positive change exemplify the values and aspirations of the university community. Their influence and accomplishments will undoubtedly continue to inspire students, faculty, and the broader society. 

SOAS’s 2023 graduation ceremonies will take place at Friends House in Central London from Tuesday 5 September and run until Thursday 7 September.