South African activist and film composer honoured at winter graduation ceremonies

The University of Sussex celebrates the first of its 50th anniversary graduation ceremonies for 2012 with an extra ceremony for winter graduation, due to popular demand.

A total of 1,941 students will be graduating this week, with nearly 2,000 family members and friends cheering on those students attending in person at the Brighton Dome for the three ceremonies over two days (Thursday 26 and Friday 27 January 2012).

Graduands and their families will be arriving from all over the UK and from far corners of the globe, including China, India, the USA, Taiwan, Japan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Thailand and New Zealand to join with Chancellor Sanjeev Bhaskar, staff and students in the celebrations.

The University will also award honorary degrees to: 

  • Human rights campaigner Zackie Achmat, who will be made Doctor of the University at the Thursday afternoon ceremony.  Zackie Achmat initiated the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality in South Africa and, as its director, successfully saw through campaigns to retain a clause prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the Bill of Rights. He subsequently, and successfully, brought several cases to the Constitutional Court, cases that are taught in law schools in South Africa today. He is being presented at the ceremony by the University’s Professor of Global Studies Richard Black, who says: “Zackie Achmat’s political skill in holding together this national coalition and his ability to influence to the national political agenda are a ‘model’ for activism.”


  • BAFTA-winning composer, musician and conductor John Altman, who will be made Doctor of Music at the Friday afternoon ceremony. Sussex alumnus John Altman has a long and distinguished career in music, including performing with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Sting. His film credits include period music for Titanic and, with some 5,000 TV commercials behind him, he is cited as among the top composers in British advertising He is being presented by the University’s Head of Music, Dr  Nicholas McKay, who says: “John Altman’s distinctive qualities can be summarised as the sheer range and diversity of his musical talents and outputs relative to others in the profession; his extensive philanthropic work; his vast array of networks developed over many decades; and his ability to demonstrate the importance and value of making relatively ‘unseen’/’background’ contributions that are fundamental to the success of work of great prominence."

The number of winter ceremonies has been increased from two to three this year to accommodate the increasing number of postgraduate students at Sussex and the growing number of students who wish to attend in person and enjoy the graduation experience.

The ceremonies will be screened live for graduands or families of graduands unable to attend.

During the ceremonies, Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing will be announcing how Sussex is celebrating its 50th anniversary internationally, with other events planned with Sussex alumni and prospective students across the globe. 

These include honorary degree ceremonies to be held by the University in India for the first time.The University has a growing cohort of students from India, while its academics are forging stronger links with institutions there. The events in New Delhi and Mumbai in February will include lectures from leading researchers at Sussex and honorary degree awards for prominent Indian citizens who are leading contributors to areas of academic interest for Sussex.

Professor Farthing says: “It is wonderful that so many of our graduating students from the UK and around the world will be attending this week's ceremonies. We look to our graduates to ensure that the value of a Sussex education continues to be internationally recognised. I am sure they will achieve this and more. I wish everybody an enjoyable day.”


Notes for Editors

Winter Graduation comprises three ceremonies – one on Thursday afternoon and a morning and an afternoon ceremony on the Friday.


Thursday 26 January 2012 at 2.30 pm

Degrees will be awarded to students in:

  • Education and Social Work
  • Global
  • Law Politics and Sociology
  • Institute of Development Studies


Friday 27 January 2012 at 10am

Degrees will be awarded to students in:

  • Business, Management and Economics
  • English
  • History, Art History and Philosophy
  • Roffey Park (degrees validated by University of Sussex)


Friday 27 January 2012 at 3.30 pm

Degrees will be awarded to students in:

  • Engineering and informatics
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Media, Film and Music
  • Psychology


Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees, which have been awarded by the University of Sussex since the installation of the first Chancellor in 1963, enable us to celebrate outstanding contributions in a variety of areas of endeavour, ranging from academia and the arts to business and the community.

Some of the most notable figures in our society during the past five decades have been awarded honorary degrees from Sussex. These include playwright Sir Noel Coward, writer Philip Larkin, musician Sir Paul McCartney, sculptor Sir Henry Moore, and actor Lord Olivier.

For further information about our celebrations in India, University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 2 February 2012