Sir David Higgins awarded Doctor of Engineering

20 September 2023
Contribution to engineering and industry recognised
The University of Sydney admitted engineer and alumnus Sir David Higgins to the degree of Doctor of Engineering (honoris causa) on 19 September, in recognition of his contribution to engineering and industry over the past 40 years.
Image of three people in university gowns

Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, Sir David Higgins and Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mark Scott

Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC conferred the degree in London UK, acknowledging Sir David’s calibre as an engineer and leader had resulted in significant positive impact over several decades. 

“Sir David’s contribution to the successful delivery of the Olympic Games in both Australia and the UK demonstrates his commitment to excellence and social and environmental progress. He notably delivered the 2012 Olympic Games infrastructure a year ahead of schedule and under budget, while prioritising sustainability measures including the use of solar panels on UK Olympic venues and compostable food packaging during the games. He achieved his objective of revitalising one of the lowest socioeconomic areas in London.

"This commitment extends to public transport, with the reform of UK Network Rail, the planning of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway system which will initially link London to Birmingham and then Manchester and chairing Gatwick airport.” 

Sir David holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Sydney and a Diploma from the Securities Institute.  

After graduating, he worked in the United Kingdom and Africa, before returning to Sydney in 1983 to forge a career in construction and infrastructure. He joined Lendlease in 1985 and rose to prominence as the company’s Managing Director and Chief Executive between 1995-2003. During his leadership, Lendlease completed the high-profile development of the Sydney Olympic Park in 2000 and the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, England.  

Between 2005 and 2018, Sir David spearheaded several projects in the UK, acting as Chief Executive of the London Olympic Delivery Authority between 2005 and 2010, Chief Executive of Network Rail between 2011-13 and Chairman of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway system from 2014 to 2018.  

He received a Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his service as the Chief Executive of the London Olympic Delivery Authority. In 2012, the Olympic Delivery Authority won the New Civil Engineer 40th Anniversary Award for Impact on Society at the British Construction Industry Awards. 

Sir David maintained strong industry connections with leading Australian organisations while based in the United Kingdom, including acting as a Non-Executive Director of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia between 2014 and 2019, providing strategic advice and counsel as Chairman of the Remuneration Committee and member of the Risk Committee. 

A Fellow of both the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Civil Engineers, Sir David continues to hold several high-profile board roles including Chairman of Gatwick Airport Limited and Chairman of United Utilities. He also holds an advisory role as a Council member at the London School of Economics and is a senior adviser to Global Infrastructure Partners in the United States.  

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