Former WaterAid Chief Executive Barbara Frost receives Honorary Degree from Open University

Posted by
Eloise Reader
18 November 2019
United Kingdom
WaterAid/ Sam James

Former WaterAid Chief Executive Barbara Frost, DBE, from Frome in Somerset, has received an honorary doctorate degree from The Open University in recognition of her commitment to Public Services and her contribution towards helping everyone everywhere have access to clean water and good sanitation.

The Open University’s honorary degrees of Doctor of the University are awarded to people whose achievements have had an impact nationally or internationally, and who are widely recognised by others working in the field. 

Barbara headed up the international water and sanitation charity WaterAid for 12 years. Prior to that, she was at Action on Disability and Development, which works with disabled people’s organisations in Africa and Asia. She was nominated by members of the water industry and received the honour at a special ceremony on Friday 15 November. 

Dame Barbara Frost said:

“It’s a huge privilege to be awarded an honorary degree from the Open University. I spent much of my career working towards a fairer, more sustainable world. I am extremely proud to have worked alongside so many committed colleagues at WaterAid, as well as inspiring supporters and partners, including the founders in the water industry. Their ongoing dedication to helping everyone everywhere have access to clean water and decent sanitation is truly humbling. These basic human rights transform lives, helping give people having an equal chance to be healthy, educated and financially secure.”

Barbara has also received honorary doctorate degrees from The University of Exeter and The University of Cranfield. In November 2017, she was invited to Buckingham Palace and received a damehood for her exceptional services to the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries.

Globally, one in ten people lack access to clean water while one in four have nowhere decent to go to the toilet. Barbara long highlighted the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene as the cornerstone of development, and campaigned for this at the United Nations and with governments globally. 

Professor Jean Hartley, The Open University, said: 

“Barbara’s leadership has been instrumental in getting issues of water and sanitation onto the international agenda. The Open University’s commitment to sustainable international development is central to who we are as an institution, reflecting our determination to promote economic and social justice at home and abroad. We are, for example, deeply proud of our work to support training and education programmes for frontline workers in health, water and hygiene around the world. We are therefore delighted to celebrate someone who has done so much to promote the importance of safe, clean water – genuinely changing lives, communities and countries for the better.” 


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Notes to Editors:


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 26.4 million people with clean water and 26.3 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[3] Prüss-Ustün et al. (2014) and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018)

[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage