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Honorary degree for motivational student advocate Alison

Alison Bernays receives her honorary degree from Denis Burn

Alison Bernays receives her honorary degree from Denis Burn Ede and Ravenscroft

Press release issued: 18 July 2011

Alison Bernays' passion for improving the student experience at Bristol University is to be recognised in today’s [18 July] graduation ceremony.

Alison played a key role as a member of the Council, which is the governing body of the University, until her retirement last year.

She remains a Pro Chancellor and is to be honoured for her dedication and commitment to helping others, receiving a Doctor of Laws honorary degree in recognition of outstanding achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the University’s mission.

It was Alison’s work as Chair of the Student Affairs Committee for eight years which had a great impact on student life, working with the sabbatical officers to push for more investment in student facilities and ultimately the refurbishment of the Students’ Union.

Denis Burn, Chair of the University of Bristol Council, is delivering the oration at the ceremony and said: “It is Alison’s association with students that has had a lasting impact and which stands out, in her own mind, as one of the significant and cherished achievements of her life.  Alison clearly loves working with young people and is very good at it.”

Prior to working at the University, Alison went to school at Badminton and took a secretarial qualification at Filton Technical College before moving to London where she got a job at the BBC.

She moved from a secretarial position to become a production assistant on arts documentaries with her eyes on becoming a director. 

Alison left the BBC when she met her husband Robert and they went on to have three daughters and successfully ran Old Down Country Park, near Thornbury, for 25 years.

They welcomed more than a million visitors as they diversified the farm’s offering, establishing a pick-your-own business, branded ice cream, a restaurant, gift shop and adventure course.

Alison also managed to find the time to dedicate to a number of public service activities, becoming a governor of Badminton School in 1989 and taking over as chair in 2008.

She supported the work of the Gloucestershire Society for 21 years, helping the charitable foundation to decide which applications were worthy of grants.

This led to her being invited to join the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Panel, a role which involved interviewing prospective judges and candidates for promotion within the judiciary.

All these experiences led Alison to the University of Bristol, where her positive outlook has encouraged and motivated others.

Denis Burn added: “She was sad to step down from her role but her commitment to the University has never diminished.  Her popularity with the students is amply illustrated by the fact that every one of the past presidents of her period attended the celebration of her service on Council, when she retired last year.

“She is a multi-skilled and multi-tasking woman who has brought a deep commitment and her many talents to the University of Bristol, in particular, for the benefit of students.

“She is steeped in a culture of service to others and happy to allow colleagues to take the credit.  Today we turn some of that credit back to her, where it is so richly deserved.”

Further information

A copy of the oration and official photographs are available on request.
Please contact Philippa Walker for further information.
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