Footballer Marcus Rashford is being given an honorary degree after he forced a government U-turn on free school meals for Britain’s poorest children.
Rashford, 22, will receive his honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester later this summer.
He will become the youngest person in the university’s history to be granted its highest possible honour and will join fellow Manchester United legends Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton in being recognised in this way.
The England striker made headlines off the pitch earlier this year when he successfully lobbied the government to provide free school meals for underprivileged pupils during the summer holidays.
Ministers had been planning to scrap the £15-a-week voucher scheme, which was launched during the coronavirus lockdown to make up for free meals pupils would normally get at school.
But the government made a dramatic U-turn after Rashford, from Wythenshawe in Manchester, wrote to them to explain how the system supported him during his schooling and to urge them to carry it on.
He received a phone call from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and after teaming up with food waste charity FareShare went on to raise £20m – or 3.9 million meals – for the UK’s most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rashford said: “It’s a proud day for myself and my family. When you look at the great names that have been awarded this doctorate in the past, it’s humbling.
“We still have a long way to go in the fight to combat child poverty in this country but receiving recognition from your city means we are heading in the right direction and that means a lot.”
Inspired by fellow England player Raheem Sterling, Rashford has also taken a vocal stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite the Premier League starting up again, the United player says he is determined to continue his campaigning.
President and vice-chancellor at Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said: “Marcus is an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent and drive that stretches well beyond the football field.
“Our university has social responsibility at its core and this sense of civic pride and duty is something we are proud to share with Marcus.”
A Manchester United spokesman described Rashford as an “exceptional player and an exceptional person”, adding: “His work with FareShare and his focus on child poverty make him richly deserving of this tremendous honour and everyone at Manchester United is incredibly proud of him.”