Honorary doctorate for Wigan man hailed as 'influential computer scientist' for his pioneering work

A Wigan man will be awarded an honorary doctorate for his pioneering work on computer games and the internet’s name system, it has been announced.

By Gaynor Clarke
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:30 pm

Nigel Roberts, who attended Scot Lane Primary and Wigan Grammar schools, will receive the honour from the University of Essex.

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He is an alumnus of the university, having graduated from there with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in computer science, before later obtaining a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the Open University/College of Law.

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Nigel Roberts will be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex

In its official announcement, the University of Essex said it gives honorary degrees to “persons of conspicuous merit or distinction who are outstanding in their academic or professional life or particular field”.

Mr Roberts was described by the university as “an influential computer scientist”.

He was among a group of students at the university to conceive and develop the world’s first multi-user computer game, known as MUD, which led to the creation of today’s multi-player games and the e-sports industry.

He also created the GG and JE top-level identifiers for Guernsey and Jersey in 1996.

After graduating, Mr Roberts worked for Digital Equipment Corporation on computer networking and office automation software, as well as for international organisations.

He is a fellow of both the Institute of Directors and the Royal Society of Arts, as well as a member of the British Computer Society's Fellows' Technical Advisory Group (F-TAG), which focuses on the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies.

He served as a director on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board between 2018 and 2021, which works across the world to keep the internet secure and stable.

Mr Roberts, who now lives in Alderney, in the Channel Islands, said: "To say I'm honoured by the university's decision is an understatement.

"I'm very much looking forward to returning to the Colchester campus for the summer graduation ceremony.”

The ceremony will be held on July 18, when Mr Roberts will give a commencement address to 2022 graduates.

Since its foundation in 1967, the University of Essex has honoured more than 300 people from many walks of life in this way.

Previous recipients of the honorary doctorate award include Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the worldwide web, UK Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson, singer and activist Annie Lennox and Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition.