Baroness Ashton has been praised for her work as a negotiator in difficult international situations

Baroness Ashton has been praised for her work as a negotiator in difficult international situations

The Right Honourable Baroness Cathy Ashton of Upholland was today made an Honorary Doctor of Edge Hill University in recognition of the powerful influence her international political roles have had in encouraging peace and stability around the world.

Cathy is a Labour politician who served as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and First Vice President of the European Commission.

An impressive list of career highlights include her role in patiently brokering the first ever talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, reopening diplomatic channels in Egypt following the Arab Spring, securing the details that formed the subsequent agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear programme, and working with US Secretary of State John Kerry to coordinate successive rounds of economic sanctions against Russia after its forcible annexation of Crimea.

Accepting her accolade from the University’s Vice Chancellor John Cater, Cathy reflected on the important role education has played in her personal and professional success.

“Education is absolutely everything, it is the transforming element of your life. It allows you to do things that your families before you could not have done. It allows you to understand the world better.

“Education is the way out of the past and into the future. I was the first and only woman in my generation to go to University. My mother grew up in wartime hardship and my father went to night school because he came from an incredibly poor mining family.  Seeing families who have come from immense poverty and deprivation, and who were not by any means incapable but didn’t have the opportunity, means that we are the promise of generations to come,” she said.

Cathy went on to congratulate the graduating Education students and impart a few words of wisdom.

“My advice above anything else is to use what you’ve learnt so that people don’t get left behind. You will know people who you were at school with who were just as smart as you, but for one reason or another didn’t get this opportunity. Your job is to try and make sure the children you work with get as many opportunities as possible.

“The greatest thing about your time at University is that it is a springboard to a fantastic future, and my job is to do nothing more than to thank your families for all they have done for you, and to wish you everything good in the future. Please, above anything, make sure you have fun,” she finished.

Lady Ashton’s political career began in 1999 when she was created a Life Peer as Baroness Ashton of Upholland by Tony Blair’s Labour Government. She became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001 and subsequently in the Ministry of Justice in 2004. Ashton became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007.

In December 2009, Baroness Ashton became the inaugural High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and served as the EU’s foreign policy chief, winning praise for her work as a negotiator in difficult international situations.

Edge Hill University will award ten Honorary Degrees during its 2016 summer graduation ceremonies. Each of the recipients – leaders in a range of areas spanning film, law, politics, music, education, and philanthropy – will be recognised by Edge Hill for their contributions to society that resonate with the University’s values, teaching and research.