Gregor Townsend

Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Hon. DLitt)
Graduation Ceremony: Monday, 4 December, 2023

Scotland rugby’s head coach, Gregor Townsend, received an Honorary Degree from Heriot-Watt University on Monday (Dec 4) in recognition of his global impact on the sport.

The former fly-half was presented with the academic title of Doctor of the University during the Winter Graduation Ceremonies being held at the Edinburgh Campus this week.  

Mr Townsend collected his scroll from Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, in front of fellow graduands, gathered within the main lecture theatre at the James Watt Centre.

Afterwards, he said: “I feel very humbled to receive this honorary degree.

“Heriot-Watt University has a close personal connection as its campus in Galashiels is situated right beside where I started and finished my playing career, and also where my mum used to work for a number of years in the library. Now, in my role as national team head coach we spend the majority of our time with our players at the world-class facilities at Oriam, in the heart of the University’s main campus. I would like to thank Oriam for their continued support and relationship with Scottish rugby and to everyone at Heriot-Watt for this award.”

Gregor Townsend is a revered figure in Scottish and international rugby having amassed 82 caps for his country.

His senior rugby career began in 1990 with his local side, Gala RFC before going on to play club rugby in England, France, Australia and South Africa.  

He was the first player to compete in all four of rugby’s professional club competitions – the Celtic League, the English Premiership, the French Top 14 and Super Rugby – and was a mainstay for Scotland throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. His exceptional ability on the field, which included a Five Nations title, as it was known then; resulted in a call-up for the 1997 British & Irish Lions squad and in 1999 he received an MBE for services to rugby.

After retiring from playing, Mr Townsend worked for the Scottish-based charity, Winning Scotland Foundation before embarking on a coaching career. He started out as an assistant coach with the Scotland team in 2009 then was appointed as Head Coach of Glasgow Warriors in 2012.

In 2017, he was appointed Scotland Head Coach.

The squad regularly attends the Edinburgh campus to train and benefit from the first-class training facilities provided by Oriam, Scotland’s sports performance centre.

Passing on his congratulations is Ross Campbell, Executive Director at Oriam, who said: “Oriam has always aimed to celebrate and support outstanding individuals who make a difference in the world of sports and Gregor Townsend is a prime example of such excellence. He rightly deserves his place as one of Scotland’s greatest ever sportsmen and we are proud to play our part in making available our outstanding training facilities to him and his players.

“This honorary degree is not only in recognition of Gregor’s past achievements but also acknowledges his ongoing dedication to the sport. Everyone at Oriam wishes him well and continued success in influencing the next generation of athletes.”

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer said: “Gregor’s honorary degree is in recognition of his remarkable contributions to rugby over many years. His ability to lead and inspire others has left an indelible mark on the sport and this award reflects the deep respect for his achievements and continued positive impact.”

Heriot-Watt and Oriam now offer yearly sports scholarship programmes, designed to embed a high-performance training environment into a sports scholars weekly schedule. This includes the Club Performance programme which allows students to study at Heriot-Watt while receiving specialist support to advance in either football or squash. In addition to accessing world-class training facilities, scholars on this programme receive a 40% reduction on their university fees. While the scholarships are initially for a 12-month period this can be extended to cover a student’s entire time at university based on their performance.