Skip to main content

Tim Hollingsworth: oration

Read Dr James Bilzon's oration on Tim Hollingsworth for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in December 2014.


Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and the congregation, Mr Tim Hollingsworth. Tim is renowned for his eminent leadership in elite sport, particularly Paralympic and Disability Sport, where he currently serves as the Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association. Both in this role, and that of Secretary General of ParalympicsGB during London 2012, he was instrumental in delivering the Games that inspired the nation and created the ultimate momentum for the international Paralympic movement.

To understand how this came about we need to look at the pivotal events in Tim’s career. Tim graduated with a Combined Honours degree in English and Drama from Exeter University in 1989, and followed this by obtaining a Masters Degree in Drama from the same institution in 1990. These were important formative years in his professional development. At this stage, he wasn’t to know how important his performance training and understanding of communications would be for his career, where he would ultimately need to effectively promote a powerful message against the backdrop of a global event.

These skills continued to develop in the early stages of his career, working in various Public Relations and Press Officer roles, before becoming Head of Media Relations for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in 1994. He remembers this period of his career fondly, particularly around the 1997 election period, which fascinated him and fuelled his interest in politics and public policy. His rapid rise into seniority within the media industry continued and, in 2001, he took up his first Directorship with HBL Media, a strategic communications consultancy. As a member of the senior management team he was primarily responsible for people and development strategy.

Four years later, in 2005, Tim made his first foray into the elite sport arena, becoming Director of Policy and Communications for UK Sport. In this role, he was part of a critical development phase, being heavily involved in persuading Government and commercial partners to provide unprecedented funding for British athletes.

During his last year at UK Sport he became Chief Operating Officer, responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of UK Sport's Major Events and International Relations Programmes, as well as its Commercial Partnerships, Strategy and Communications. It is fair to say that, over the last 10 years, he has committed himself fully to a career which allows him to apply his skills and leadership in media and communications to create opportunities for UK Sport and ultimately the athletes they serve.

His most high profile achievements and his close connections with the University of Bath, have been realised in the last 3 years, since becoming Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association. The BPA chose the University of Bath as its preferred preparation and training base for ParalympicsGB leading up to London 2012, resulting in multiple training camps, including the final camp before athletes travelled to the Paralympic Village in 2012. Tim was also instrumental in helping the University establish momentum for its’ Research Centre for DisAbility Sport & Health (DASH).

Tim has been able to observe the wider impact of his endeavours on the success of our athletes during the Games and the subsequent impact on the nation. He prefers to speak of the momentum that has been created from London 2012, as opposed to the legacy it has created. In his own words, “legacy suggests that we have reached a pinnacle and we’re trying to sustain it where, by contrast, Paralympic Sport is just starting out!” This momentum was clearly carried into the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games, where ParalympicsGB achieved the greatest ever performance at a Winter Paralympic Games by a British team, including our first ever Winter gold medal.

Now taking pride in his involvement in a range of wider local and national initiatives to promote sport, he continues to remove barriers and create opportunities. He has made an enormous impact in a short period of time and continues to create momentum for Paralympic and disability sport.

Chancellor, I present to you Mr Tim Hollingsworth, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Dr James Bilzon

On this page