Honorary DegreesProfessor Ann Skelton

Meet Ann

Professor Ann Skelton is a respected global figure in international children’s rights, with an established track record in both research and legal practice. Throughout her career, she has transformed children’s rights through strategic litigation in South Africa, and plays a key role internationally with the United Nations as an elected member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, ensuring national governments uphold children's rights.

The UN

Professor Skelton has been an elected member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child since 2017, having been elected to her second term in 2021. As part of this role, Ann leads the UN Committee’s response to the Optional Protocol Communications Procedure where children can raise a complaint against their home state on human rights violations.

Pioneering change

Ann has also provided technical expertise to other United Nations bodies, including the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF),The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), andThe Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), for more than a decade. In doing so, she is pioneering change for children globally by setting new international precedents on children’s human rights and offering expert guidance on improving the lives of children around the world.

Children's Rights Lawyer

Ann is a qualified children’s rights lawyer in South Africa, where she has practiced for more than 25 years.

Her notable achievements include lobbying for the rights of children in the South African criminal justice system by Chairing the South African Law Reform Committee which drafted the Child Justice Act, an Act which created a child justice system in South Africa. Ann also led the implementation of the project into South African Law. This was a monumental moment in South African law where prior to the Child Justice Act, children in South Africa’s justice system were tried in the adult system.

Professor of Law

Ann has been a Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, since 2014, where she holds the UNESCO Chair in Education Law in Africa.

Before that, Professor Skelton served as the Director of the University’s Centre for Child Law. Ann initiated the Centre for Child Law’s strategic litigation work, where she has appeared as counsel in many landmark cases, including 12 cases at the South African Constitutional Court. She is also the current holder of the Rotating Chair on enforcement of children’s rights at the University of Leiden, Netherlands.


Watch Professor Ann Skelton receive her Honorary Degree, and hear what she had to say to our students at their graduation ceremony.

Download video transcript (word doc)

We caught up with Ann ahead of receiving her Honorary Degree. 

Congratulations! How do you feel about receiving your Honorary Degree from the University of Strathclyde today?

I'm incredibly excited and, of course, very honoured. It's really something special because in the letter inviting me it said that it is to recognise both my academic work and my practice because of Strathclyde's commitment to useful learning and that's an ethos I really support and feel makes the honour special.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned that helped you get to where you are today?

Keep going. Sometimes one faces disappointments or obstacles in what you're trying to do but it's really important not to give up and to simply continue to strive to do the best that you can.

What advice do you have for our graduates?

It's important to enjoy what you do so if at any time you find that your career isn't fulfilling, don't stay in it, move to something else, be flexible. There are all kinds of careers and experiences that you can have in life and I think all of that is what we should be doing. We need to live fulfilled lives and of course, if we can do something for the lives of others in the process that makes it even better, but it's really important to feel enthusiastic about what you're doing.

What makes you happy?

I do enjoy work so that's fortunate as I spend a lot of time doing it. I also obviously enjoy being with friends, having interesting experiences, and going to interesting places. I do love Geneva and spend quite a bit of time there as I'm on a UN Committee and it's one of my favourite cities in the world, but I also like to be in South Africa and at the sea. It's a wonderful place to be.

What’s the most important thing you do daily for you?

What I do to keep my sanity is I make lists. I make lists of things I need to do and then I tick them off. Sometimes I even cheat, and put things on the list I've already done and tick them off just to make myself feel like I'm achieving!