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Adult education leader honoured  


A leading figure from the adult education sector has received an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton. 

Ruth Spellman is the first female Chief Executive in the 114 year history of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) - the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education in England and Scotland.

Ruth was awarded a Doctor of Education in recognition of her contribution to the promotion of lifelong learning over a number of years and in particular her mission to raise aspirations and develop educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged. 

The award was presented at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Friday, 14 September 2018.


Ruth Spellman, CEO of the WEA said:  “It is an honour to be awarded Doctor of Education for the promotion of lifelong learning. Developing educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged is part of The WEA’s ethos and something I'm very proud of.

“For tens of thousands of people across the UK, community and adult learning provides a life raft to a better future. WEA students face challenges that are a direct result of social inequality, and adult education has offered them a way to overcome some of these.

“The need for community learning is more important now than it ever has been since the WEA began its work in 1903. The opportunities adult education provides is frequently nothing less than transformative, not only on the employability and skills development of our students, but on their health, wellbeing and wider benefits to their families and their community.

“I am particularly pleased to receive this honour from the University of Wolverhampton which is taking a lead role in widening participation and building pathways for adult learners. This is also a tribute to their leadership team.”

Ruth Spellman’s contributions in the workplace have been widely recognised. She was awarded an OBE in 2007 for services to workplace learning and an Honorary Doctorate from Cranfield University in 2010 for exceptional contribution to Management and Leadership.

Ruth’s early experience in the public sector saw her lead the HR consulting practice at Coopers and Lybrand. Following this Ruth became HR Director at NSPCC, modernising the organisation’s approach to developing its people and winning the Employer of the Year Award in 1996. 

Ruth went on to lead Investors in People where she overhauled the IIP brand, which subsequently became an acknowledged Superbrand.

Ruth then went on to become the first female Chief Executive of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, where she led a diversity strategy and focussed on retention of female talent. 

In six years at the WEA, Ruth has already driven major organisational changes, from policy, networking, corporate and academic partnerships to the launch of an internal research department.

Honorary awards are presented by the University of Wolverhampton to people who have made a significant contribution to their field of expertise. 

The University’s graduation ceremonies take place at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, from Thursday, 13 September to Friday, 21 September 2018.

For information about courses to study at the University, visit: 

Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

Date Issued: Friday, 14 September 2018

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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