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Health scientists to be honoured at ARU graduations

Published: 11 October 2021 at 16:30

Nicholas Alston and Professor Roderick Watkins

Anglia Ruskin to award honorary doctorates to Professor Adrian Davis and David Wells

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) will present honorary degrees to two influential figures in the field of health science this week as graduation ceremonies continue at Chelmsford Cathedral.

Former ARU student David Wells, who will receive the award of Honorary Doctor of Science, is chief executive of the Institute of Biomedical Science. As the former Head of Pathology for NHS England, David was a key figure in the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to expand the NHS testing capacity from 2,000 tests per day in early March 2020 to 25,000 tests every day by the end of April.

Professor Adrian Davis is an award-winning expert in sensory impairment who received an OBE in 2007. He has served as Head of Population Health Sciences for Public Health England as well as Deputy Director for Research with Public Health England, and has been a Visiting Professor at ARU since 2015. 

As an epidemiologist and public health scientist with the UK Medical Research Council for 25 years, he led the UK National Study of Hearing, the world’s largest scientific population-based study of hearing and hearing impairment. Professor Davis will receive the award of Honorary Doctor of Health Sciences.

The awards, which will be bestowed on Wednesday, 13 October during ceremonies for students in the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care, follow the award of Honorary Doctor of Laws to Nicholas Alston CBE on Thursday, 7 October.

After attending school in Chelmsford and then graduating from Cambridge University, Mr Alston was commissioned into the Royal Navy where he joined the staff of the Royal Naval Engineering College as a lecturer in Materials Science.

He then worked for a further 29 years in the UK’s defence arena, before joining Goldman Sachs where he became a Managing Director and co-head of its worldwide corporate security office.

He became the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex in 2012, and joined ARU in 2016 as Chair of the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER), before stepping down from the role earlier this year. He recently chaired the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements Serious Case Reviews of the London Bridge and Streatham terror attacks.

Addressing graduates during his acceptance speech, Mr Alston said:

“I am humbled to be receiving the award of Honorary Doctor of Laws. I am also delighted to be attending this ceremony to share in such an important event for all those who are receiving their degrees.

“I am particularly delighted the ceremony is being held here at Chelmsford Cathedral, a building that has been standing for 500 years at the centre of what is now the city of Chelmsford. Then a mere town, this is where I grew up and went to school.

“When I set out from Chelmsford to university, and then from university to work, I could not possibly have foreseen where my career would take me. I realise what a privilege it was to receive such a good education at school and to have the stimulation and challenge of my undergraduate degree.

“You have the opportunity to be the leaders of your professions, but I hope you also have the opportunities to build stronger, safer and caring communities that can meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”


A total of 11 graduation ceremonies will take place at the cathedral throughout this week, with the final Chelmsford ceremony taking place on Thursday, 14 October.