Dr Deng Yaping, eighteen-time world table tennis champion and four-time Olympic gold medallist, was awarded the honour in recognition of her outstanding achievements in sport and education.
She received the honour in front of UNNC students graduating in International Studies and International Communications, joining the more than 800 students graduating this year.
As one of the most successful athletes in world sports history, Dr Deng was inducted into the International Table Tennis Federation’s Hall of Fame and is the only Chinese member of the Laureus World Sports Academy.
She is also an alumna of The University of Nottingham, completing a masters degree there in 2002, having retired from table tennis in 1997.
In 2008, she was awarded a doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge and her success in academic studies is a role model for many athletes who want to pursue higher education after their retirement in sport.
Since 2010, Dr Deng has been Deputy Secretary General of the People’s Daily and president of web search engine jike.com.
This year, she, along with The University of Nottingham UK, has set up the Deng Yaping Sports Scholarship, which will help professional Chinese sportspeople, and young people with an aptitude for sport, receive higher education and realise their potential.
At the ceremony where she received the honorary degree, Dr Deng thanked The University of Nottingham, praising the education she had received there, and offered graduating students advice.
She said: “No matter where you come from and where you are going, what occupation you take, please don’t forget that you are alumni of The University of Nottingham, carrying on its honour and traditions. I sincerely hope that every one of you can become ambassadors and help China communicate with the world.”
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Professor Hai-Sui Yu
, Pro-Chancellor at The University of Nottingham, said: “Deng Yaping is widely regarded as one the greatest players in the history of table tennis and has demonstrated strong determination and commitment throughout her sporting career.”
The University of Nottingham, in common with other British universities, is empowered to give honorary degrees – the highest honour a university can bestow - to people of distinction.