Aung San Suu Kyi has received an honorary degree from the University of Oxford at a ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre today, along with seven leading figures from the worlds of science, the arts, intelligence and business.
Daw Suu, Chairman of the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD) and member of the Burmese parliament, was awarded the honorary doctorate in civil law in April 1993, but until now has been unable to receive it in person.
She received the award at Encaenia, the University’s annual ceremony at which honorary degrees are conferred on distinguished men and women and benefactors are commemorated.
The other honorands were Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Director General of the Security Service; author David Cornwell (aka John le Carré); the President of Harvard University, Professor Drew Faust; Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman of Sony Corporation; Professor Charles Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at McGill University; Henry Barnett, former President and Scientific Director of the Robarts Research Institute; and physicist Professor William Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: 'We were honoured to welcome Aung San Suu Kyi back to the University of Oxford, her alma mater, after so many years. The University awarded her an honorary degree in 1993, and for her to finally be able to collect it is a momentous occasion both for us and for her.
'She is returning to a city and university that was her home for several formative years; we have the honour of welcoming an alumna who is one of the great figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.'
Daw Suu arrived in Oxford yesterday on her 67th birthday. She stayed at St Hugh’s, the college where she studied as an undergraduate, where a private party was held for friends and family complete with birthday cake.
This morning, the eight honorands and senior members of the university dressed in academic robes processed into the Sheldonian Theatre for the ceremony, presided over by the Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes.
After all eight honorands had been conferred with their degrees, the Chancellor invited Daw Suu to address the university. Honorands do not usually address the meeting.
"We have the honour of welcoming an alumna who is one of the great figures of the 20th and 21st centuries."
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton
Daw Suu read PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at St Hugh's College from 1964 to 1967. After graduating, she worked in New York and Bhutan, before settling in Oxford with her husband, the Tibet scholar Michael Aris.
Her return to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother coincided with a period of growing discontent with the military government. Fearing her influence, the military placed her under house arrest in July 1989.
She remained under house arrest or in prison for most of the subsequent 20 years, before finally being released from house arrest in November 2010. In April this year the NLD won 43 out of the 44 seats it contested in a by-election and Daw Suu was elected to parliament to represent the constituency of Kawhmu.
During this time in detention, she received many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and an honorary degree from the University of Oxford in 1993. She has now been able to accept both awards in person during her first trip to Europe for almost 25 years.
Daw Suu is an honorary fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford and of St Antony's College, Oxford, and patron of the International Gender Studies Centre at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.
This year’s honorands are:
Baroness (Elizabeth Lydia) Manningham-Buller is the former Director General of MI5, the British internal Security Service, a post she occupied from October 2002 until her retirement on 20 April 2007. Degree of Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa
David John Moore Cornwell, writing as John le Carré, is one of the world’s most celebrated authors whose writing career spans 50 years and 22 novels which have been translated into 36 languages and adapted for film, TV and radio. Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Professor Drew Gilpin Faust, the first woman president of Harvard University, is a historian of the Civil War and the American South, and was the founding Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Sir Howard Stringer is Chairman, President and Chief Executive of the Sony Corporation, a post he has held since 2009. Prior to joining Sony in 1997, he had a distinguished 30-year career as a journalist, producer and executive at CBS Inc. Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Professor Charles Margrave Taylor is a philosopher and Emeritus Professor at McGill University. His writings have covered a range of subjects that include artificial intelligence, language, social behaviour, morality and multiculturalism. Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Henry Joseph Macaulay Barnett is a neurologist whose work on stroke pioneered the use of aspirin for stroke prevention. After serving as Chairman of the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences at The University of Western Ontario from 1974 to 1984, he co-founded the Robarts Research Institute in 1986 and was named its first Scientific Director. Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Professor William Daniel Phillips is a physicist and Fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. In 1997 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Steven Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji for his contributions to laser cooling, a technique to slow the movement of gaseous atoms in order to better study them. Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa