Published: 15 May 2021
More than 600 University of Sunderland in London students have received a special message from multi-platinum award-winning songwriter Emeli Sandé.
Emeli, who is also Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, gave students an inspiring speech as they celebrated finishing their studies.
Due to COVID-19 guidelines, the 625 students were unable to celebrate in person this week but instead enjoyed an online event to mark the Class of 2021.
In a recorded message, Emeli, who became Chancellor of the University in 2019, said: “Savour this moment. Pause and reflect on your achievements. Listen to the praise and applause from your loved ones.
“You have earned the right to smile and stand tall; after all, you have succeeded in a year like no other.
“Yes, it has been tough, but you made it, we are here today. What we endure has the power to make us stronger - celebrate that.
“The past year has also sharpened our knowledge and appreciation of what really matters.
“When I became Chancellor of the University of Sunderland I shared my deep connection to the city. Both of my parents were the first in their families to leave home and study for a degree. Education for them as well as for so many was life-changing.
“I’m grateful for many things, but my greatest thanks go to my mum and dad – who made sure my sister and I knew the importance of having access to education and supported us along the way. I know that not everyone has that support network and believe me I do not take that for granted.
“In March 2020 I visited Sunderland to open our University’s new School of Medicine. Just days before the first lockdown, I met students, staff and University friends and looked around many of the amazing facilities.
“Everyone I met was open, friendly and positive about the University and its impact, on the lives of students and on wider society. I left impressed, elated and proud to be associated with this great institution.
“I hope it won’t be too long before I am able to visit everyone at our campus in London.
“Later last year I was thrilled, but not surprised, that our University was named University of the Year for Social Inclusion, by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. The Times recognised what I had witnessed first-hand – a University doing all it can to provide access to education and to support students on their journey.
“Studying in Higher Education is tough. It’s not for everyone, but for those who make it the benefits to themselves and to society are profound, and that is why we celebrate today.
“You made it through and you are now about to embark on the next chapter of your life, the next step in reaching your true potential. What an exciting prospect.”
Emeli was born in Sunderland on 10 March 1987. Her father Joel, having moved from Zambia, met her mother while they were both at what was then Sunderland Polytechnic, which became the University of Sunderland in 1992. Emeli moved with her family to Aberdeenshire in Scotland when she was four.
Alan Hardie, Director of the University of Sunderland in London, said: “Unfortunately, due to what is happening worldwide, we were not able to do face-to-face graduations, but the available digital technologies provide us with an amazing platform to savour and celebrate this moment and our students’ achievements, with their friends and family.
“Our students’ hard work and determination have brought them to this moment, and they now join over 160k alumni of the University of Sunderland - a global community connecting you with people around the world.
“I hope our graduating students enjoyed their time with us and they can also reflect on the support, encouragement and help they got from the staff at the University. I've always found our academic and support staff to be a true inspiration not only to myself but, I hope, to all our students as well.
“Our hope at the University of Sunderland in London is that, wherever our students’ next steps may take them, the community they've been a part of during their time with us will stay with them always. Congratulations and good luck with the future."