Charles Hay

Honorary Doctorate of the University (Hon. DUniv)
Graduation Ceremony: Saturday, 2 December, 2023

A senior diplomat and former British High Commissioner to Malaysia has received an Honorary Degree from Heriot-Watt University on Saturday (2 Dec).

Charles Hay was presented with his new academic title of Doctor of the University during Heriot-Watt’s Winter Graduation ceremonies being held at the Edinburgh campus this week. He was recognised with the honour for his longstanding commitment to advancing British higher education in Malaysia.

Mr Hay said: “I’m deeply honoured to have been awarded an honorary degree from Heriot-Watt University. It is a privilege to receive such recognition from this esteemed institution, known for its commitment to excellence in education and its contributions to the global academic community.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the faculty, staff, and students of Heriot-Watt University for this distinction. It is a testament to the enduring partnership between the United Kingdom and Malaysia, which has been marked by collaboration and a commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding.”

Originally from Aberdeen, Mr Hay has had a distinguished career in British diplomacy.

After graduating in Politics and Philosophy at Southampton University, he joined the British Army, training at Sandhurst and then serving with the Gordon Highlanders.  He remained with the regiment for five years, which overlapped with the end of the Cold War, and was posted in Scotland, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Berlin and Northern Ireland before retiring as Captain.

Mr Hay then moved to the Foreign Office where he specialised in European affairs, serving in Prague, Madrid and was the UK’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. 

He worked alongside the former Labour MP, Robin Cook, as his spokesman during the Kosovo war, and led the team organising the G8 Summit in Gleneagles in 2005.

Later, he was appointed Consular Director with the responsibility for looking after British Nationals globally and for the UK’s response to overseas crises.

In 2015, Mr Hay became Ambassador to South Korea at a period of rising tension, ending his time in Seoul with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in March 2018.

He was British High Commissioner to Malaysia between 2019 and 2023.

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: “It gives me immense pleasure to bestow this honorary degree upon Charles. His dedication to diplomacy and his remarkable contributions to international relations have had a profound positive impact on the world.”