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Alison Oliver: oration

Read Dr Fiona Gillison's oration on Alison Oliver for the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in December 2019.


Alison Oliver
Alison Oliver

Chancellor, I am delighted to introduce an honorary graduate who is both a national figure, providing an inspirational role model for young people, and who has a strong local connection to Bath having made a lasting contribution for many generations of our students.

Alison worked at the University of Bath as the Deputy Director of Sport from 1998 to 2004, during which time she was instrumental in bringing about many of the stepchanges in our sporting history that we currently take for granted. She was part of the team who delivered the successful lottery-funding application that established our multi-million pound Sports Training Village, which now houses international athletes as well as hundreds of children and recreational exercisers on a daily basis. She was also instrumental in the design and creation of an HND in Sports Performance, now a thriving Foundation Degree that enables around 60 dual-career athletes to study at Bath and still compete at the highest level of their sport each year. She was pivotal in securing the netball Superleague franchise team at Bath in 2004; with nothing more than her own determination, the offer of a state-of-the-art sprung floor and the promise of a group of young, inexperienced players she somehow convinced the legendary former New Zealand netball coach Lyn Gunson to move half way across the world and set up stall at Bath. The result has been a team who have gone on to be the most successful in the competition’s history, and which continues to provide a route for girls from all over the South West to progress from local to international competition.

Alison left Bath in 2004 to take up the post of Implementation Director of the Youth Sports Trust, a national charitable organisation with a simple mission, ‘to build a brighter future for young people through sport’. Since 2015, she has been its CEO. Alison has been with the trust for 15 of its 25 year history, and by any measure the reach and impact of the Youth Sports Trust over that time is impressive. Between 2013 and 2018 their ‘Sport Changes Lives’ strategy helped 4.7 million children participate in sport and physical education, trained 210,000 young people and adults in inclusive practice, supported 99,000 teachers with professional development, worked with 43 National Governing Bodies of Sport and resulted in the delivery of initiatives with 70 funding partners including government departments, local authorities and businesses. Alison’s stamp of inclusivity can be seen throughout the trust’s programmes, including recent initiatives such as “This Girl Can”, which aims to get more girls involved in sport and PE, and “Play Unified”, which aims to tackle intolerance and create inclusive sporting environments for children with intellectual disabilities. There is no question that the Youth Sport Trust is one of the most influential charities in the UK.

All of these very tangible achievements make for an impressive CV, but what Alison’s colleagues consider marks her out as a truly exceptional leader is the impact she has on those around her. She takes the time to get to know all those with whom she works, to make them feel valued and believe that they have an important part to play. She remains as committed to the development of others as to achieving her own goals, and wherever she goes she creates a working environment that everyone wants to be a part of and where all can thrive. We cannot think of a more fitting role model to hold up for all our staff and students alike.

Chancellor, I present to you Alison Oliver who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa.


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