The Fellowship was presented by the University of London’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Adrian Smith FRS, at the Barbican Centre in London.
Mr John McConnell received his Honorary Fellowship at the Barbican Centre, in front of an international audience which included graduates from more than 90 countries, academics and staff from the University of London, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who was attending as an Honoured Guest.
On receiving the award, Mr McConnell said that he was ‘surprised, humbled and delighted’ to receive this honour.
Speaking about his time as Chief Officer of the International Programmes, previously known as the External System, Mr McConnell said that he was well supported by others throughout the organisation:
‘There were individuals within the University and its Colleges who were committed to Distance Learning and the development of a new energised mission for the External System and indeed, initiatives had already been taken to take things forward […] most importantly, there was the international academic reputation of the University of London and its member institutions which underpinned its awards.’
Mr McConnell’s commitment to accessible quality education has been evident throughout his working life.
A former King’s College London graduate, his early career was in education with two London boroughs. Following a six-year spell with the Open University, Mr McConnell joined the University of London in 1984 as the Deputy Secretary for Examinations. He later became Secretary for Examinations in 1988, and had a series of promotions culminating in his appointment as Chief Officer of the International Programmes.
Under Mr McConnell’s watch, the International Programmes underwent a profound transformation. This included:
- New contractual relationships between the University and its member institutions.
- Reporting into a robust academic committee structure and an endorsement from the UK Quality Assurance Agency.
- The development of an international network of teaching institutions, providing face to face support for those students who did not wish to study independently.
- The establishment of an operational infrastructure to provide the global distribution of learning materials and examinations for over 100,000 candidates annually.
By the time Mr McConnell retired in 2009, the International Programmes had extended its global reach to more than 44,000 students worldwide. It had also become a major academic activity, offering over 100 diplomas and degrees, making it a leading provider of distance and flexible learning in the UK and, in terms of student numbers, the largest UK provider overseas.
Giving the oration, Dr Mary Stiasny OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), University of London International Programmes, said:
‘Honorary Fellowships are awarded in the University of London to individuals of “significant achievement and distinction, who have made an outstanding contribution to the University’s reputation, mission or objects over a period of time.” And there is no one more deserving of this recognition than John McConnell, who I present to you today.’