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2021: A year to remember

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Published on 28 December 2021

Highlights of the year
Highlights of the year

As we prepare to say goodbye to 2021, we take a look back at some of the University of Sunderland's key events of the past 12 months.



Producing exceptional medics of the future

The University announces plans to add a new multimillion-pound facility to help train the medical professionals of tomorrow.

The creation of a Cadaveric centre at the University’s City campus will not only be key to the recently-established School of Medicine, but will provide vital training for other students within the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing.

The facility will also benefit many of the region’s current surgeons and surgical trainees, providing vital facilities and is expected to open in early 2022.


Breaking down barriers 

Stigma and other people’s lack of understanding could by why so many Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) students are not able to reach their full potential – but that could be about to change, after the University of Sunderland signed a pledge to help break down these barriers.

There are very few GTR university students and graduates in the UK, with an estimated average of 200 members of the communities in Higher Education at any one time.

As part of a national initiative, the University has made a firm commitment to take steps to support GTRSB (Gypsies, Travellers, Roma, Showmen and Boaters) students into and within Higher Education.



Students help vaccine effort

During this month, the University announced that a group of its medical students had began taking part in the UK vaccination roll-out in a bid to beat COVID-19.

Our first pioneering cohort of students used their newly-acquired skills to help in the national vaccination programme.

Many of the students were trained as junior vaccinators. In the following months, other students form the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing would also join the effort.


University celebrates major milestone

It all began in March 1921, when Hope Constance Monica Winch arrived in Sunderland with the ambition to set up the finest Pharmacy department in the north-east.

Three students and 25 ex-servicemen were the first to attend and thanks to Hope’s vision and determination, over the last century many thousands of young people have studied at the Sunderland School of Pharmacy.

This month the University kicked off a year of celebrations to mark the milestone of 100 years of Pharmacy education in Sunderland.



Reflecting on the first anniversary of lockdown

Sir David Bell, the University of Sunderland’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, praised staff, students, and the wider community on the anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown.

Sir David said: “When I look at what the University – and by that I mean our students and staff – has achieved in 12 months, I am amazed by the resilience, commitment and adaptability we have seen across our community.”

A journey of self discovery 

As part of International Transgender Day of Visibility, transitioning University of Sunderland student Sebrina Fatz told us how she started to build the life she has always wanted.

Sebrina, who was born Sebastian, spoke out about the obstacles she has faced in life and the support she received from the University as she transitions.

She said: “It was never really about finding a community, it was always more about finding myself, about seeing that trans people could lead happy, successful, fulfilling lives.”



Transplant miracle lecturer

This month we heard how a University student-turned-lecturer’s passion for study helped him through the hardest time of his life.

Kudz Munongi, 39, underwent a lifesaving double-kidney transplant after he was struck down by massive organ failure.

Through it all, the student never gave up his studies and is now working as a senior lecturer in Accounting and Finance at the University.

But, never one to take things easy, Kudz, is also helping students who may have their own health issues via his work with Kidney Research UK and Cancer Research.


New learning opportunities 

We announce plans for a new million-pound education hub, bringing new learning opportunities to thousands of students.

The project heralds the start of a unique partnership between the University of Sunderland, Hambleton District Council and York College – providing a range of courses at the Campus@Northallerton (C@N).

Currently students living in the area have to travel out of the district to access further and higher education, so it is hoped the new hub will help keep jobs in the area and the local economy thriving.



University supports the region

New data this month revealed the critical and multimillion-pound impact the University is making in supporting the north-east.

The multi-faceted way in which we are contributing to regeneration, regional growth, research partnerships, and start-up businesses is highlighted in data released in Research England’s first Knowledge Exchange Framework.

The Framework highlights the University is in the top 10% of universities nationally for contributing to local growth and regeneration, through projects like Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM), which has been evaluated as contributing a gross £43 million to the north-east economy.

Exciting new partnership

More good news, as the leading private healthcare provider, Spire Healthcare, announces a new nurse degree apprenticeship programme in partnership with the University, with roles available across Spire’s 35 English hospitals.

The Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship is now open to applicants at all stages of life, including school leavers, university graduates and people looking to retrain.

The apprenticeship is a work-based qualification providing apprentices with a combination of training and assessments via distancing learning and on-site placements applying practical knowledge.



New blue plaque honours role of North East women in anti-slavery movement

The role played by North East women in the anti-slavery movement was highlighted when a new blue plaque was planned in the region.

The heritage plaque was being unveiled in Sunderland city centre to highlight the activism of Sunderland’s Quaker women.

The plaque is now fixed to the façade of the newly-restored buildings at 172-3 High Street West after a successful bid by academics at the University, led by Professor Angela Smith.


University announces expansion plans 

It’s not just the reputation of the University that has grown during the past 12 months, our London campus announced expansion plans for a whole floor of Harbour Exchange Square in the Docklands to welcome students.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland, said: “The University of Sunderland in London is an integral, and highly successful, part of our institution. Therefore, I am delighted that we are now able to expand in London through the acquisition of an exciting new space which will be of benefit, both to students and to staff."



From life in the Army to saving lives on the NHS frontline

Mum-of-four Gemma Ladley told how she is starting a new career thanks to the University after leaving the Army and raising her family.

The 40-year-old signed up for the Armed Forces in 1996, having left school aged just 16. In 2005, Gemma left the Forces and raised her family.

After being impressed with the University’s ‘career-focused’ vision, she signed up for our Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care degree – and now Gemma has now started her new career with North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).


Our Class of 2021 - Summer

While we might have not been able to celebrate face-to-face due to the ongoing pandemic, that did not stop thousands of students celebrating their graduation from the University.

The University once again enjoyed online celebrations to mark the remarkable achievements of our graduates – in what has certainly been a remarkable year. We also later announced that all those who had missed in-person ceremonies would be invited back in 2022 to mark their success at the Stadium of Light.

So, we are all looking forward to an exciting 12 months as the University goes from strength to strength.



Bringing students' creative vision to life 

This month saw the completion of the University’s new 4K-UHD virtual studio, giving students the opportunity to experiment and innovate with cutting edge technology.

The £300,000 system includes a Mo-Sys StarTracker Studio with a camera tracking unit, wireless-linked handheld StarTracker Viewfinder and high-grade green-screen walls and flooring.


University welcomes new Photography lecturer

Photographer Johannah Churchill, who took the iconic shot of a frightened COVID nurse, joins the University as a Lecturer in Contemporary Photography.

Johannah’s image “Melanie, March 2020”, which went on to define the UK’s battle against coronavirus, became one of the best-known images featured in an exhibition spearheaded by the Duchess of Cambridge.


Barking mad!

The University welcomed a new four-legged addition to the Faculty of Technology – but have they bitten off more they can chew after enlisting Bernard the robot dog?

Bernard promotes technology and the faculty at outreach events, open days and recruitment, as well as showcasing what technology can do and how it can be used in an applied way to solve tasks.



What a result! 

The University was this month shortlisted as University of the Year, the leading category in this year’s THE – Times Higher Education – annual awards.

The nomination marks a successful 12 months for the University, with Sunderland named University of the Year for Social Inclusion by The Times and The Sunday Times last September.

Jordan heads back North

BBC Radio 1 presenter and Sunderland graduate Jordan North returned to the University to officially open the new Spark Studio 5.

The £80,000 custom-designed studio includes new wall art designed by Sunderland graduates, a new camera system, which allows students to film or stream interviews, and a new height adjustable desk.

Jordan, a former Spark presenter, said: “If this studio was here when I was a student, I would never have left.”


Lights, camera, action!

Acclaimed independent production company Fulwell 73, the makers of Netflix show Sunderland ‘Til I Die, launched a new regional office at the University.

Fulwell North, based on Sir Tom Cowie campus at St Peter’s, is a hub for the company’s activities in the North. It will focus on developing new programming, nurturing local talent and discovering new creators from diverse backgrounds on and off screen.

Fulwell 73’s new location aims to help address the skills gap for those starting out in the industry and to attract talent back to the region who have roots there.

New music degree strikes the right chord

A unique music programme to help nurture, develop, and produce the music artists of the future welcomed its first students this month.

The BA (Hons) Modern Music Industries course runs in partnership with the Northern Academy of Music Education (NAME) – ma de up of Barry Hyde, from the Futureheads, and business partner Dan Donnelly, who has performed with Celtic Social Club, The Wonder Stuff, and The Levellers.



Emeli Sandé checks out University's new facilities 

Multi-platinum, award-winning singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé was back on Wearside this month to check out the University’s new £1.4 million photography and media facilities.

Emeli, Chancellor of the University, took a tour the Sir Tom Cowie campus at St Peter’s, which is home to the new photography centre, new virtual production studio and the new Spark studio.


Buzz Aldrin's son launches new project at Sunderland

It was an out of this world experience for the University’s trainee teachers and Year 5 pupils from East Boldon Junior School when the son of American astronaut Buzz Aldrin landed at City campus to launch The Giant Mars and Moon Maps project.

Sunderland became the first university in the UK to team up with the Aldrin Family Foundation - led by Dr Andrew Aldrin - to deliver the project.

The programme will see the University's trainee teachers use giant interactive floor maps to bring the boundless possibilities of space and space exploration to life for pupils across the north-east.


Beamish celebrates University's role in the history of pharmacy

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North joined the University’s Pharmacy Centenary celebrations this month by holding a live virtual tour of its Edwardian chemist shop.

Those who attended were able to see all of W Smith’s Chemist’s old shop paraphernalia, ointments and products, as well as learn how medicines were made and how pharmacists were trained back in the 1900s.



Jeff Brown officially launches University's new £1.4m facilities

It was another big month for the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, as BBC Look North presenter and University honorary graduate Jeff Brown officially launched the University's new state of the art photography and media facilities.

Lee Hall, Head of the School of Media and Communication at the University of Sunderland, said: “This is a special time to be studying Media and Photography at Sunderland as we continue to invest in our facilities to support our talented students on their creative journeys.

“We are delighted that Jeff Brown, one of the north-east’s most established and respected broadcasters, can see first-hand the facilities we have put in place to help our students develop the skills they need to succeed in the creative industries.”

Think Course, Think Career, Think Sunderland 

 Honorary graduate and Sunderland-born multi-award winning broadcaster Lauren Laverne was made the voice of the University's new promotional video ‘Think Sunderland’.

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/bcPECrTplLU



Our Class of 2021 - Winter

Hundreds of students graduated from the University this month.

The ceremonies - held over three days at the Stadium of Light - had not taken place for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, it was smiles, laughter and tears of joys all round as students, staff and families came together to celebrate.


The Fire Station ignites 

After years in the planning and months in the making, Sunderland’s new £18 million auditorium – home to the University’s new music programme – finally opened its doors this month with a red-hot programme of shows and performances.

The opening of The Fire Station’s auditorium is a pivotal moment in Sunderland’s cultural renaissance, bringing acclaimed national and international artists to the city, as well as providing a platform for local and emerging talent to shine.


Emma rides the airwaves to success

MA Radio graduate Emma Millen is among the new and emerging talent set to join BBC Radio 1 over the festive period as part of the station’s Christmas Takeover 2021 line-up.

The 24-year-old, who will be presenting a show during what would usually be fellow Sunderland graduate Jordan North’s slot, said: “I am super-proud of being a north-east lass and to be given this opportunity to do what I love, have a laugh and be me on such a massive platform. It’s a dream come true.”

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