Kim Howells

Kim Howells

Areas of Interest

Arts, Alumni, Politics and Government

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 1998


Born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1946, Kim Howells was MP for Pontypridd and Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office until 2010. After obtaining a joint Honours Degree in Humanities from Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (CCAT) he later went on to complete his PhD at Warwick University. He was appointed as a part-time lecturer at CCAT before going to work as a researcher and editor for the South Wales Miner. After a period working as a writer and presenter for television and radio he was, in 1989, elected Labour Member of Parliament for Pontypridd, later serving as Shadow Spokesman on Trade & Industry, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Development & Co-operation. From 1997 he served as a minister in the Departments for Education & Employment, Trade & Industry and Culture, Media & Sport, before being appointed Minister of State at the Department for Transport; from September 2004 as Minister of State at the Department for Education & Skills, and from 2005 was Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. In October 2008 he was appointed Chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee by Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Kim Howells retired from parliament in 2010 and returned to writing/presenting films for television. His BBC series on the history of art in Wales was broadcast in 2011/12 and he won a BAFTA for his film, broadcast in 2014, on the historic Strike of the British Coalminers in 1984. He is currently involved in making a BBC film on the Art of the South Wales Valleys since the 18th century and a film biography of the American novelist and screenwriter, Clancy Sigal. He is also writing a novel and translating into oil paintings some of the many drawings he made during visits as a government minister to war-torn regions like Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

In 1998 Kim Howells was made Honorary Doctor of Philosophy.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy to Dr Kim Scott Howells, Member of Parliament for Pontypridd and Minister of the Crown.

There are various landmarks along the road to establishing a new University such as Anglia. Among the older universities, LSE for instance, for resistances from 1955-70 provided most of the leaders of the emerging CW nations. However, we are at the point where our first alumnus has become a Minister of the Crown and we celebrate that point today in honouring Dr Kim Howells. He is an alumnus of Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (one of the University's antecedent institutions), where he obtained a joint Honours degree in Humanities in 1974 under the aegis of the former Council for National Academic Awards. Prior to this he studied at the Hornsey College of Art, where he told my informant that he "played a part in the events of 1968". For those of us who can recall those days, 1968 was a turning point in the history of Western universities. Incidentally, most rampant student revolutionary leaders of the era are now government ministers, portly bankers or vice chancellors! Things, he recalls, were a lot quieter in CCAT than in Hornsey apart from embryonic movements towards the liberation of women. Your Public Orator, Vice Chancellor, is pleased to observe, for quite irrelevant reasons, that Kim Howells founded the first CCAT rugby XV, having first had an unprofitable start at rugby league with Wakefield Trinity at a time when 'going north' from Welsh rugby was a most heinous sin! He later obtained a PhD on the coal mining industry at Warwick - a very different institution - whilst teaching part-time at CCAT.

It should be pointed out that Kim Howells was a mature married student at Cambridge, with experience as a steelworker and coal miner in South Wales and his later career embraced an NUM leadership role in South Wales in the troubled times from 1982-89. A number of formative influences have clearly moulded Kim Howells' views on education and lifelong learning; the value attached to education in the South Wales valleys; his experiences at CCAT where the student body was very diverse in nature; and the realisation that the new universities have a major contribution to make to societal and community development, which is likely to be quite different to that of the older establishments. The effect of these influences we will refer to later.

Dr Kim Howells was elected Labour MP for Pontypridd in 1989 after a brief career as a radio and television presenter. In quick succession he became Shadow Spokesman for Development and Co-operation in 1998; for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in 1994; and for Home Affairs in 1995. When Labour assumed government in May 1997 Dr Howells became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Education and Employment with, amongst other things, specific responsibility for policy on lifelong learning. As is apparent from what has already been said, this was a portfolio admirably suited to his background, temperament and talents. In this capacity, he has worked with Professor Stephen Heppell of Ultralab in this University, on the opportunities presented by the new information technologies for lifelong learning, training the trainers and teaching the teachers.

In the recent government reshuffle, Dr Howells was promoted to the position of Under Secretary for Competition and Consumer Affairs, to the disappointment of his many friends in higher education who were, nonetheless, delighted at his advancement. He is currently grappling with such weighty matters like the British Airways-American Airlines alliance and, of course, the B-Sky-B-Manchester United hot potato.

According to sources close to the Speaker's Chair, Dr Howells is said to still retain certain firebrand characteristics of the born-again loyalist, voicing radical sentiments which Mr Blair may or may not wish to endorse in public! Whatever the situation, it is one of our most distinguished alumni and former colleagues which we welcome today.

May I therefore invite you, Vice Chancellor, in recognition of Kim Howells' strategic contribution to higher education and lifelong learning in this country and his historical associations with the institution, to confer on him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy of this University."