Helen Griffin and Shahien Taj

University honours for actress Helen Griffin and campaigner Shahien Taj

Two leading figures in Welsh culture and society have received honorary degrees from The Open University.  Actress and comedian Helen Griffin, and charity leader and campaigner Shahien Taj, were honoured with the degree of Doctor of The Open University at a ceremony in Cardiff on Friday (14 October).

The honorary graduates collected their doctorates alongside over 350 Open University students from across Wales, and beyond, who received their degrees at the ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Ms Griffin was honoured by the University for her exceptional contribution to education and culture which includes the award-winning film Little White Lies; her one-woman show Caitlin, based on the life of the wife of Dylan Thomas; and a host of plays, screenplays and television appearances.

Ms Taj was presented with her honorary degree in recognition of her contribution to public services; having devoted her life to empowering Muslim women, children and their families as both an advocate for the community and a trusted adviser on national policy.

Common commitment to social justice and human rights

Rob Humphreys, Director of the OU in Wales, said: “We are delighted and honoured to be able to recognise both Helen and Shahien at this year’s graduation ceremony and present them with honorary degrees.

"Their work, although in very different fields, shares a common commitment to social justice and human rights which chimes perfectly with the mission of The Open University.

"Wales is fortunate to have such passionate ambassadors for equality and for their communities and it is a privilege to be able to celebrate their achievements alongside those of our equally inspirational students.”

Helen Griffin

Helen Griffin

Upon receiving her honorary doctorate Ms Griffin said: "I am both amazed and delighted to be given an honorary doctorate from The Open University, the only truly egalitarian university in an education system shored up by inequality."

'Extending horizons and hopes'

Ms Taj said: “I am very proud to be associated with The Open University, its values chime with my own – using community approaches to empower individuals, overcoming social and economic barriers, and extending horizons and hopes.

Shahien Taj

Shahien Taj

"It was an honour to stand among so many graduates on the day that they received recognition for their hard work, and to be able to share in their joy and their sense of achievement.”

Cardiff’s ceremony was a celebration for over 350 students, many of whom have overcome great personal challenges in order to complete their OU studies.

Many Open University students choose to study flexibly in order to fit their education around their work, family or caring responsibilities. Graduating students of all ages and backgrounds came to the ceremony from right across Wales and beyond, all sharing an unwavering resolve to achieve their potential.