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Honorary degrees awarded at the University of Bristol – Wednesday 15 February

Chrissie Wellington

Chris Jolly

Press release issued: 15 February 2017

The University of Bristol is awarding honorary degrees to Chrissie Wellington OBE and Chris Jolly at degree ceremonies taking place today [15 February] in the Wills Memorial Building.

Chrissie Wellington, widely regarded as the greatest female endurance athlete on the planet, will be recognised with a Doctor of Laws degree.

She is a four-time winner of the Ironman World Championships, the endurance event that comprises swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running a marathon.

Chrissie became World Champion less than a year after turning professional, and only three years after her first ever triathlon. She caused a sensation in the sport in 2007 when, in only her first year as a professional athlete, she won the ironman World Championship in Hawaii at her first attempt.

In 2012, she retired from professional sport, and is now actively involved in promoting physical activity and, especially, supporting and encouraging women and girls to take up sport, as well as being an ambassador for a number of charities.

Her autobiography, A Life Without Limits, was published in 2012 and went straight to number one on The Sunday Times bestseller list.

In 2010, Chrissie received an MBE and was named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year, and in 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to sport and charity. She lives in Bristol with her husband Tom and daughter, Esme.

Chris Jolly, the Managing Director of Jolly Learning Ltd - a programme that has revolutionised the early teaching of reading and writing – will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Chris graduated with a degree in Chemistry with Psychology and Zoology from the University of Bristol in 1968. He subsequently taught in Malaysia for two years with VSO, before working for 15 years in consumer marketing.

He then founded his own publishing company and came to publish Jolly Phonics which has defined what is now called ‘synthetic phonics’, and enabled major gains in achievement.

When this methodology was adopted by the UK government in 2005, his programme was used in 68 per cent of UK schools. Now it is used around the world, with many countries adopting it for all schools.

An honorary degree is a major accolade, awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the University’s mission.             

Further information

The official photographs and speeches delivered at each ceremony are available to the media on request from the University's Press Office. Please email

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