A staunch supporter of university opportunities for students from low-income families, and a campaigner for a myriad of causes, Newham born Lewis Iwu has been granted anHonorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East London (UEL) in recognition of his dedicated work in the local community.
He told graduates of UEL at their annual graduation ceremony on 17 July, “I am really flattered and honoured to receive an honorary degree from such a forward looking and diverse university as UEL. Having grown up in Newham, I feel that UEL embraces the local community and focuses a lot on the things that I strive for and believe in. It mirrors my beliefs in equality, diversity and opportunities for all.
“This event today has been a great occasion for me and I am very humbled to have been awarded this prestigious degree. I have always been socially minded, so it is very flattering to be recognised for what I believe is my life’s work by a university that represents the local Newham area where I grew up. To have an honour bestowed upon me by UEL, and a career where I can combine my passion for social issues with working towards change for the better, is the ultimate accolade!”
Lewis runs his own business, Purpose Union, which he set up in January 2019 to offer strategic advice to companies. He spends a lot of his time advising, mentoring and visiting schools to assist with careers and other advice.
“These days, lots of schools in Newham are sending students to Oxford and Cambridge because standards are increasing and improving and there is a strong work ethic. But there is still a need for more students from low-income families to have the opportunity to go to Oxbridge,” he said.
Vice-chancellor and president of UEL, Professor Amanda Broderick, conferred the title of Honorary Doctorate of Letters upon Lewis Iwu at the ceremony at ExCeL London in the Docklands.
A strong supporter of university opportunities for students from low-income families, an advocate against childhood obesity and champion of better representation for women, Lewis Iwu has campaigned for a multitude of causes since he was a young man growing up in Newham.
With an honours degree in politics, philosophy and economics from New College, Oxford, and one in law from BPP University, plus a published book behind him, Lewis is now a hugely successful entrepreneur, advising businesses to give something back through social causes so as to help make an impact on the world.
Lewis is passionate about social justice and mobility and in both his profession and his voluntary work he is fighting to create a better world and better lives for individuals.
He said, “We are trying to address health and inequalities in the UK, plus a number of issues such as climate change, animal rights, cyber security, better representation for women and helping companies with the gender pay gap. These are reputational benefits, which are doing some good in the world.
“We are also working with a few charities on matters such as childhood obesity, getting more women into technology and the lack of social mobility in higher education.”
Born in 1987 in Newham, Lewis attended St Bonaventure’s School, Forest Gate, before going on to Oxford in 2005 – one of a handful of pupils from his school to do so.
While at Oxford, Lewis, who was elected president of the Students’ Union, campaigned and advocated on this issue. He also helped to establish a charity called Debate Mate, which coaches young students with communication and presentation skills with schools paying to be part of the programme. Between 2007 and 2008, Lewis helped recruit a number of schools in east London into the programme.
Lewis won the world debating championships while he was a student at Oxford. His book about how to communicate effectively, Words that Win, was published in March.
In 2015 Lewis went on to found the Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of businesses, charities, trade unions and other non-profit organisations which lobbies government to effect change in education. He has frequently appeared in the media as the Alliance’s spokesperson.
Lewis added, “We work with companies and organisations indirectly who want to make an impact in the world. Today it’s no good for companies to say that they want to make money. It is important that they want to also help to solve world problems.”
Lewis also sits on the board of the British Red Cross and spends time visiting schools to offer careers coaching and mentoring.
Lewis stressed the importance of having a voice on key issues. “My firm belief is that we are stronger when we work together,” he concluded. “I think there is a need to help firms navigate or grow, not just in the UK and EU but also Africa, Asia and elsewhere.