Posted Thursday 18 July 2019
A Kingston University graduate dedicated to tackling homelessness through his policy work with a leading national charity has been named in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours List.
As Director of Policy and External Affairs at homeless charity Crisis, sociology graduate Matthew Downie played a vital role in influencing the Homelessness Reduction Act - one of the most significant reforms to homelessness legislation ever enacted in England. The act aims to improve the support local authorities provide to families and individuals who are either homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Mr Downie said the BSc Sociology course he studied at Kingston University helped raise both his and his peers' political consciousness. After graduating in 1997 he worked in finance, but didn't feel passionately about it.
A job at the National Autistic Society led him in to policy campaigning, which he did at national charities Action for Children and Shelter, before joining Crisis. He said he had long been motivated by the idea of bringing about change in society through politics. "My approach has always been about being resolute," he explained. "For me, it was about deciding what it was you wanted to change then planning how you would get there. This is what has motivated me."
Mr Downie, who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), paid tribute to the team of people behind his work with the Homelessness Reduction Act who, he said, had worked hard to make it possible.
Two Kingston University honorary graduates and pioneers in big data have been awarded OBEs in the honours list. In 1989, Edwina Dunn and her husband Clive Humby co-founded international data science company dunnhumby - which transformed the combined industries of retail and consumer products across the world, by applying computer algorithms to data, in a pioneering way. Miss Dunn was chief executive and Mr Humby, chief data scientist.
The company launched a number of loyalty schemes - most notably Tesco Clubcard - which propelled Tesco to double market share in under three years. The couple said one of their proudest achievements was when Tesco Chairman, Lord MacLaurin, said in 1994, "you know more about my customers after three months than I do after 30 years."
The duo were recognised by Kingston University in 2018 when they were awarded honorary doctorates by the Business School - Clive Humby for his outstanding contribution to data science and Edwina Dunn for her outstanding contribution to the marketing industry, to gender equality and women's involvement in STEM industries.
Miss Dunn is also founder of The Female Lead, a charity that gifts books and films to schools and universities across the United Kingdom and United States of America showcasing diverse and inspiring female role models. Recalling when she began her own career, she said, "I was often the only woman in board meetings. It took time and courage to make an impact." She said that gender equality in industry remains slow to change and hopes that all businesses will strive for a greater gender balance, not because of quotas but, for better financial performance.
The couple sold dunnhumby to Tesco in 2011 by which time it had 1,500 employees, reaching 350 million customers in 25 countries. They have since formed Starcount, a consumer insights company.
Other high achievers linked to Kingston University to make this year's Queen's Birthday list were Andrew Ferguson - a 1988 HNC Physics graduate, who has been recognised with an OBE for his services to the economy and broadband services - and mezzo-soprano singer Kathryn Harries who has been awarded an OBE for services to opera.
The Welsh opera singer was director of the National Opera Studio, a training ground for young opera singers, from 2009-2017 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Kingston University in 2008. She has also raised nearly £700,000 for a number of charities through concerts and other activities such as walking from John O'Groats to Land's End for language-loss charity Speakability.