Honorary Doctorates


Pierre Neil, widely known as Swiss, is a dynamic force in the word of music, culture, and social change. Born into a multicultural family in London, Swiss has spent his life advocating for diversity and equality, making him a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate for his remarkable contributions to the BAME community.

Swiss first made waves in the music industry as a talented DJ and producer, seamlessly blending genres to create a unique sound that resonated with audiences from all backgrounds.

Through this innovative platform, Swiss has harnessed the power of consumer choices to uplift and promote black entrepreneurs, ultimately bolstering economic opportunities, community resilience and social equity.

Swiss is a visionary founder of the groundbreaking Black Pound Day company which encourages individuals to actively support black owned businesses on a designated day each month.


Raphael Sofoluke

Raphael Sofoluke is a nationally recognised businessman, son author and entrepreneur who has made it his mission to ensure all members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community have access to the same opportunities as their peers.

He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate to recognise his outstanding work in highlighting the achievements and contributions of the BAME community.

Raphael was listed in Forbes as one of the 25 leafing Black British Business people to follow in 2020.

Alongside his wife, Raphael is the co-author of ‘Twice as Hard’ which addresses the real-life challenges black people face whist navigating a predominately white space.

Raphael has also launched the Black Tech Achievement Awards, where black role models and innovators are celebrated and acknowledged with a goa to illuminate the pathways to greater black representation of the community within the industry.

Anju is the Founder of MEA Consulting Group, a thought leading diversity and inclusion consultancy, aimed to create inclusive workplaces where underrepresented groups can thrive. Anju has cultivated innovative and thought provoking training and advisory for some of the world’s leading and aspirational organisations. Her work has involved working with the government, charities, corporates and schools. During her time, she has helped to create world leading diversity, equity, inclusion experiences using virtual reality, which has since been rolled out to the NHS and other leading establishments.

Prior to founding MEA, Anju had a successful career in Investment Banking for 12 years, working at Citigroup, Barclays and Lloyds building a commendable track record on the trading floor, and creating a network of international clients. Having experienced invisible barriers underrepresented groups face first hand, she became immensely passionate about driving change for the future generations, so they can enter workplaces which value their individual differences. Her passion was further augmented when she became a mother.

Anju has been a Business Mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. She was recently appointed on the Advisory board for Everything In Sport Women’s Edition 2023 at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. Anju has been featured in Forbes, BBC, Good Morning Britain and The Guardian.

Anju aspires for her daughter to grow up into a world in which organisations embrace female talent at all stages of a woman’s life. She wants her son to grow up and become an ally to people from underrepresented groups. Anju has three sisters and was raised singly by her mother who dedicated her life to raising her four daughters, yet also achieved three universities degrees and worked all hours to support their dreams.

Known for his expertise in the areas of industrial strategy and policy, innovation, and university-business collaboration, Professor Sir Tim Wilson is a distinguished British academic and economist. He is being awarded an Honorary Doctorate this year in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of Arden University.

Sir Tim has held many academic positions including Vice Chancellor at the University of Hertfordshire. He is also the former Chair of the UNITE Foundation, former Senior Non Eexcutive Director of The University of Law & former Non Eexecutive Director of the Unite Group plc. Currently Sir Tim is a Trustee for the Garden House Hospice Care.

With a specific focus on the role of innovation and technology in driving economic growth, Sir Tim has been a prolific researcher and writer throughout his career. He has published numerous books and articles on these topics, including his influential book, Innovation Policy and the Economy’ which was awarded the Schumpeter Prize in 2006.

Aside from his academic work, Sir Tim has also played a crucial part in shaping public policy. He is perhaps best known as the author of the Wilson Review, an influential report on university-business collaboration in the UK. Published in 2012 and commissioned by the UK government , the report made a number of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of partnership between universities and businesses, with the aim of driving innovation and economic growth.

From 2016 to 2019, Professor Sir Tim Wilson served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Arden University. During this time he played a key role in developing a new approach to regulatory governance. His efforts resulted in the successful registration of the university with the Office for Students. He oversaw the creation of the University's 2025 strategy and the development of the university's current values. In addition, he supported the university's investments in the library, careers services, and international expansion to Berlin.

In 2011 Sir Tim was knighted for his services to universities and business. This is the 4th Honorary Doctorate Sir Tim has received.

With over 22 years in the sector, Alethea Balbuena has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate this year in recognition of her dedication to Mind. Alethea’s passion for helping others began when starting her career as a Support Worker within adult mental health services, before moving on to work within housing. This then led to Alethea’s incredibly important work within the Children and Young People’s Service. Building on the great work that had already been started, she helped to shape services from around 200 young people attending each year to over 12,000 who walk through the doors of the service today.

In 2013, Alethea successfully secured a position as Senior Operational Manager, overseeing services delivered across Coventry and Warwickshire; Community, Recovery and Wellbeing services, Asylum Seeker and Refugee Resettlement Programmes, and Children and Young People’s services. In 2018, Alethea secured the position of Director of Operations and most recently, went on to secure, Deputy CEO at Coventry and Warwickshire Mind and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience gained working in the grass roots to the Senior Leadership Team.

Outside of work, Alethea loves spending time with her family alongside her core passion of helping others, especially groups that should not be forgotten, communities who are underserved. She therefore spends time volunteering to support other charities linked to poverty, housing, homelessness, young people and race equity.

Mark Wood is an established speaker, author and explorer who operates within the cold extremes of our planet. He is being awarded an Honorary Doctorate this year, to recognise his educational work around the world.

By tapping into the many similarities between the difficult challenges faced by organisations today and the challenges faced by explorers in very dangerous and hostile regions, Mark is able to deliver a highly thought-provoking, inspirational and motivating speech to his audiences. Mark developed a global education programme which aimed at giving something back to the communities in the villages he trekked through. The aim was to develop and enhance education in remote schools. Within 2 years of the programme launch, Mark and his team were fitting solar panels, computers, printers and more into schools to assist students and their teachers. As a consequence, these schools are now connected to the internet.

Mark is ranked within the top 5 communicators in the world on the Skype platform and works with over 1.2 million students in over 34 countries. Mark’s an engaging speaker. He entertains and educates his audience by recounting his first-hand experience of extreme climates in the remotest locations, talking candidly about his own leadership style, and how pushing himself to the limit, and beyond, helps him inspire the best from others. He has completed a number of expeditions that include guiding film crews to the Magnetic North Pole, leading two expeditions to the Geomagnetic North Pole and completing solo expeditions to both the Geographic North and South Poles.

Victoria Stakelum is a leadership specialist, transformational coach, and qualified psychologist (having graduated with an Arden University master’s in psychology with distinction).

In 2015, Arden had not yet blossomed into the institution we know and love today. Back then we were RDI - a small, passionate team of individuals delivering online learning services to traditional universities. Victoria worked as consultant on leadership and strategic development at RDI, and led the design and launch of the university, putting Arden on the map as a high-quality alternative to the traditional university experience.

Truchio ‘Tru’ Powell is a successful, multi award-winning entrepreneur and personal branding coach. He leads multiple successful businesses and believes his purpose is to platform and champion the work of others around him. Tru has also been recognised with numerous accolades for his work in entrepreneurship and leadership and Tru has also been recognised as one of the BBC’s National Future Figures in 2021 for his work with Aston Performing Arts Academy.

He is a Board Member for the Birmingham Hippodrome, The West Midlands Tourism Board and TAG Network Midlands. Tru has a passionate belief in championing the causes of equality, justice, and freedom of speech. He believes all communities should be represented irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexuality, age, or class.

Brendon Batson OBE has been awarded the Doctor of Business Administration in recognition of his outstanding work in the football business area, his pioneering role in tackling discrimination, and his wider committee work. Born in Grenada, Brendon migrated to England with his elder brother at the age of nine, with his mother and sister joining them two years later. As a schoolboy, Brendon was signed by Arsenal football club and later won the FA Youth Cup of 1971 whilst at the club’s academy. By the age of seventeen, he was signed as a professional, becoming the first black player to feature on the Gunner’s first team. After ten appearances for Arsenal, he eventually moved to Cambridge United in 1974, where he made a total of 163 appearances and scored six goals. Brendon then went on to team up with fellow black players Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham at West Bromwich Albion in 1978, where the trio became known as the ‘Three Degrees’. The trio became both innovative and popular with West Brom fans nationwide.

In recognition for his services in football, Brendon was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2001, and later Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2015.In 2019 a statue of the footballing trio the ‘Three Degrees’ was unveiled in New Square in West Bromwich town centre.

With over 27 years in the social care sector, Jane Brightman has been awarded an honorary doctorate this year in recognition of her dedication to the profession. Jane fell in love with social care at the age of 14 when she helped care for her great aunt who had dementia. She subsequently took up work experience in a day centre and knew from this point that social care was her path. Jane went into management working across the East and West Midlands but took a step into education whilst working for Anchor Trust in Wolverhampton, where she trained to be an assessor. She then moved to Devon and built her own training company delivering qualifications and apprenticeships in social care and childcare.

She has also held a number of trustee roles as well as running a large network for care managers. Jane is passionate and dedicated to improving social care, for the people who draw on care and their loved ones as well as those individuals who work in the sector.

With over 40 years in the music industry, legendary frontman of The Specials, Fun Boy Three and Special Beat, Neville Staple was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his dedication to local community work and youth projects in Coventry.

In September 2018, Neville spoke out about the heartbreaking loss of his grandson, who was stabbed to death at the age of just 21, in a local nightclub. Working with local organisations and wider charities promoting the implications of knife crime,

Neville currently works with various groups, including Victim Support, cadet forces, MIND and Music for the Homeless, as well as schools and young offenders. Here, Neville provides talks, performance tips, music lessons and other fundraising activities, with devoted support from his wife, manager and soulmate, Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple.

Neville recently assisted the Lord Mayor to support Coventry in winning the ‘City of Culture 2021’ bid, to help drive positive change in the city, boosting the economic prosperity.

In 2004, Michael Fuller became Britain’s first black Chief Constable of Police when he was appointed to lead the Kent force. He had joined the Metropolitan Police as a cadet at the age of 16 and had risen through the ranks over three decades working in both uniformed and CID roles in London.

He also helped set up the Racial and Violent Crime task force and wrote the action plan for the Metropolitan Police following the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. At a time when many ethnic minority officers were leaving the police, Michael helped set up and became the founding Chair of the Black Police Association.

After retiring from the Police in 2010 Michael was appointed as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service and Serious Fraud Office. He was awarded the G2 ‘Man of the Year’ award (2001) in recognition of his contribution to policing and the Queens Police Medal (2004) for ‘distinguished service’.

Michael recently published his memoir entitled ‘Kill the black one first’, which he hopes will inspire others to overcome life’s challenges to achieve success. Arden is proud to award Michael an Honorary Doctorate this year, celebrating and recognising his outstanding work.

As part of Arden’s first-ever graduation ceremony, Pauline Roach was awarded an honorary doctorate for her dedication in improving digital skills, and data literacy of people in voluntary and charitable organisations across the West Midlands.  

With over 30 years’ experience in both public and voluntary sectors, and listed in ‘Inspiring Fifty: Europe 2017’ highlighting incredible women in tech careers, Pauline has been recognised for her remarkable commitment in supporting community organisations improve their understanding and skillset.

In 2016, Pauline was awarded the West Midlands Women of the Year Award for Outstanding Contribution to Technology and was also a finalist that year for the Silicon Canal, Most Influential Female in Technology.

Her work resonates strongly with our ethos and purpose, to unlock the potential in everyone and widening and diversifying participation.