Two long-standing members of staff at the university have been recognised in the New Year’s honours for service to higher education.

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Debs Porter, executive assistant to Faculty Dean Professor Fiona Ross and manager of the Faculty office, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Debs is one of the longest-serving members of staff in the Faculty and first learnt she had been put forward to receive the honour in a letter from the Cabinet Office in November.

However, she had to wait for the list to be officially released at the end of the year before she was able to share the news with colleagues at the Faculty, run jointly by Kingston University and St George's, University of London.

"I was almost too scared to open the letter to begin with," she said. "I thought that maybe I'd been called for jury service or something like that. When I did, I was so surprised I put it back in the envelope thinking someone was playing an elaborate joke and had to read it again the following day."

Debs has played a pivotal role in the Faculty since its inception in the mid-1990s when she worked closely with founding Dean, the late Professor Mike Pittilo.

Professor Ross said the honour was a fitting tribute to an extremely loyal and dedicated member of the Faculty team.

"Debs has been a vital cog in the wheel of the Faculty ever since its launch and has contributed to the success of this unique university partnership by providing the all-important glue that gels us together, the back-up, the repository of knowledge and the organisational memory.

"Knowing how things work in two universities, oiling the wheels, making sure systems run smoothly and giving indefatigable attention to detail makes this honour thoroughly well deserved," she said.

Debs has yet to be told when she will be presented with her medal or who will award it.

The British Empire Medal was established in 1917, but scrapped by former Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1993. It was revived in 2012 to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Approximately 300 are awarded annually.

Another award has gone to Dr Kenton Lewis, former head of widening participation at St George's, who has become a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to higher education.

He worked at St George's for 17 years and made a significant contribution to widening access to higher education. Within SGUL he promoted processes that recognise potential in learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

These initiatives have increased the proportion of state school students at St George's from 53% to 83% over three years. He championed a scheme to recognise potential of learners from poorer performing schools by adjusting the entry criteria in line with the usual A-level achievement at such schools.  Published in 2012, this work was commended as good practice in Alan Milburn’s report on “How Higher Education Can Advance Social Mobility”.

Most significantly, he has pioneered a web based learning tool tasteofmedicine.com, which provides information, advice and guidance to learners aspiring to study healthcare related courses, but who are disadvantaged through lack of school, community or family resources.

The concept was Kenton’s and he sought funding and coordinated the development of the four stages of the website. The website has enabled greater impact on the wider community of learners which is evident in the significant number of hits it receives.

He said on Twitter: “I am absolutely delighted to receive an MBE - clearly based on the hard work and support of all of my colleagues, past and present. Thank you!”