Liverpool University apartheid protest student awarded degree - 46 years late

Protesters at the University of Liverpool Image copyright University of Liverpool
Image caption There were protests across UK universities in the early 1970s, including at Liverpool

A student who was expelled from university for taking part in anti-apartheid demonstrations in 1970 has been awarded an honorary degree.

Pete Cresswell was forced to leave Liverpool University without graduating for protesting against its investments in apartheid-era South Africa.

The student was one of 10, including Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, punished for a six-week sit-in at the university's Senate House.

Mr Cresswell said he was "gobsmacked".

"If I went back through it 1,000 times, my 22-year-old self in 1970 would do it again," said Mr Cresswell, who was the only one of the 10 to be expelled.

The former politics student said he was "astonished" to be awarded a degree and had always thought "hell would freeze over" before the university gave him one.

Image copyright University of Liverpool
Image caption Pete Cresswell, with vice chancellor Janet Beer, said he has "never harboured any hard feelings toward the university or anybody involved"

Awarding him an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, vice chancellor Prof Janet Beer said "we in the university want to put this right".

She said that while the university "cannot undo" Mr Cresswell's "unfair and wrong" treatment, it can "recognise that wrong, and publicly do so" to a man who "saw what was the right thing to do and paid a price for it".


Inspired by the 1968 student revolts in France, activists across the UK brought protests and sit-ins to universities into the early 1970s and students in Liverpool were no exception.

The chancellor of the university at the time was Lord Salisbury, a known supporter of apartheid.

Image copyright University of Liverpool
Image caption Nine other students were suspended for the protest - including Jon Snow (pictured) - but Mr Cresswell was the only one expelled, only a few days from taking his final exams

Mr Cresswell said: "Looking back, I think we were right and if you look at the issues, we have been proved right.

"This does put a full stop on the whole thing and I just feel pleased that a bit of history has been reviewed and put to bed."

The Birmingham-born student stayed in Liverpool and despite having to leave his politics course during his third year with a "CV from hell", eventually became a social worker, holding roles with the council and the Care Quality Commission.

Now retired, Mr Cresswell said he was pleased his daughter had had the chance to see him in robes - she graduated herself more than 10 years before him.

Image copyright University of Liverpool
Image caption Jon Snow said it was a "happy day" and a "beautiful thing" that the university had finally given Mr Cresswell a degree

Mr Snow, who received an honorary degree from the university in 2011, sent him a congratulatory video message, saying: "Well done Pete. Well done Liverpool - I still love you."

Mr Cresswell said that while Mr Snow could not attend, he was "there in spirit".

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