Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Dame, Professor Magdalene Odundo DBE

Magdalene sits in a black tshirt with a red apron over. She is smiling to the left of the image.

Areas of Interest

Alumni, Arts

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Arts


Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Professor Dame Magdalene Odundo for the award of Honorary Doctor of Arts.

Magdalene Odundo is an artist of international renown, and distinguished alumni of the Cambridge School of Art.

Born in Kenya, Dame Magdalene grew up in Nairobi, New Delhi, India, and Mombasa. She returned to her native city to study Graphic and Commercial Art at Nairobi Polytechnic, before embarking on her professional career as a commercial layout artist with a local advertising agency.

But Magdalene was eager for more formal training, and was keen to gain exposure to a greater diversity of creative styles. So when the opportunity arose to travel to England to attend the Cambridge School of Art, she took it.

It was in Cambridge that Magdalene’s love of pottery began to flower, and the hours spent in the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were to have a lasting influence.

After completing her studies in Cambridge, Magdalene moved on, to study for her BA at West Surrey College of Art and Design - what is now UCA Farnham.

After graduating, she gained a three-year teaching post at the Commonwealth Institute in London and then went on to attend the Royal College of Art, gaining her MA in 1982.

Over the next four decades and counting, Magdalene went on to enjoy an incredibly active career. Primarily a maker of art, she is a teacher and lecturer, researcher, external examiner, and mentor to a great many aspiring young artists.

Magdalene’s distinctive, polished vessels are informed by a diverse range of art and craft traditions. Her works have achieved world-wide recognition and can be found in private and public collections around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian Museum in New York.

In 2008 Magdalene received the African Art Recognition Award from the Detroit Art Institute and in 2012 she received the African Heritage 40 Years Anniversary Award. In 2014 she was named Visual Artist of the Year, at The Journal Culture Awards and in 2019 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth.

In 2020, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for Services to the Arts and Arts Education.

Magdalene has used her influence and experience to powerful effect, supporting a wide range of arts and education bodies. She has served as a member of the British Council Art Advisory Panel, as a board member of the Royal College of Art, and as a patron and trustee of the National Society for Education in Art & Design.

After 15 years as Professor of Ceramics at UCA Farnham, then later as Professor Emerita, Magdalene was appointed Chancellor of UCA in 2018.

Dame Magdalene’s name has become synonymous with great art, a dedication to teaching, and a remarkable ability to connect cultures from around the globe.

She will be a powerful role model for our aspiring artists, and we are delighted to welcome Dame Magdalene Odundo to our Anglia Ruskin community.

Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Professor Dame Magdalene Odundo for the award of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.