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Emeli Sandé

Chancellor, 2019 - present

Now a multi-platinum selling singer and songwriter, Emeli Sandé was born in Sunderland in 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 and she attended the University of Glasgow, from where she graduated with a degree in neuroscience.

Emeli wrote her first song at the age of 11 and showed a keen talent for music. She was inspired by Nina Simone and Alicia Keys. Emeli’s parents took her to see the ‘Songs in A Minor’ tour when she was 16 years old. As a fellow high-achieving student, piano player and fan of Nina Simone, Emeli identified not just with Key’s work but also her background.

Her passion for music ran alongside her studies while at University, where she continued to write and perform at gigs across Glasgow, honing her talent.

One of Emeli’s many influences has been the artist Frida Kahlo, whose strength, bravery and fearlessness were an inspiration to her when she made the decision to pursue a career in the tough and competitive music industry.

Emeli’s debut album Our Version of Events, hit Number 1 in the UK charts and has sold over 5.4 million copies to date. It was the biggest selling album in the UK in 2012 and 2013 and is certified platinum seven times in the UK and Ireland.

Her memorable performances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games brought her to the attention of almost a billion viewers and led to a performance at the White House for Barack Obama. Her videos have had over 340 million views, she’s sold 19 million singles, with three hitting Number 1 in the UK. Emeli was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for her services to music.

As an internationally acclaimed artist with strong values, Emeli has used her profile to support many important campaigns. Her powerful stance on social justice is evident through her songwriting, and she has also performed at fundraising concerts or led campaigns of her own, backing up her lyrics with action.

For Emeli, education and music are central to who she is and she believes that both have the power to change lives for the better.


Emeli Sandé MBE talks about becoming the University of Sunderland's Chancellor

Emeli Sandé MBE – Chancellor's Installation