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30th Anniversary: “I had fun, made friends for life and went on to a successful career”

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Published on 15 August 2022

Gavin Ames (without jacket) in 1993
Gavin Ames (without jacket) in 1993

This year the University of Sunderland celebrates turning 30. 

To mark the occasion, we caught up with Gavin Ames who started at Sunderland Polytechnic in 1991 – and graduated from the University in 1994. 



Age: 50 

Birthplace: SOUTH SHIELDS 

Years at the University: 1991 - 1994 

Programme studied: BSc (Hons) ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY 


Country where you currently reside: BAHRAIN 


Why did you pick to study at the University of Sunderland?  

To be honest, it was due to me messing up my A-Levels. That said, it turned out to be a great decision, I enjoyed my course and my three years at Sunderland were the best of my life. 


Did you live in halls/at home?  

I lived in rented/shared accommodation in the city. 


Did you enjoy the programme you studied?

Yes, I did, a good mixture of subjects, all valuable. In the early ‘90’s the Environment was a growing subject and the range of modules gave me an excellent grounding. 


Tell us a little bit about how your career progressed after leaving the University 

I joined Veolia straight from uni as a graduate trainee, I ended up working there for nine years rising to Regional Manager, I was then headhunted to take a senior role as General Manager for a business in Saudi Arabia, where I stayed for 10 years.  

I’ve now been here for close to 20 years in total and am currently Executive Vice President for a sizeable services company offering a wide range of industrial and commercial services, we employ over 2,000 people and have based throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 


When people ask you about your time at the University, what do you tell them?  

I always tell them of the fun I had, the friends I made and the fact that the majority of my friends and peers have gone on to have successful careers. 

I also spent three years playing for the University rugby team and have so many great memories of games and social nights. I’ve carried on playing rugby and only hung up my boots in May this year after winning the Over 45’s Competition at the Phuket International 10’s in Thailand. 



If you had to summarise your university experience in five words, what would they be?

Friendship, fun, sport, learning, development. 


Do you still believe higher education has something to offer?  

Absolutely yes, from both an educational and a personal and emotional development perspective. 


What would you have done differently during your university years?  

Maybe I would have worked a bit harder! I enjoyed all aspects of student life and perhaps at times I prioritised social and sports a bit more than academia. That said, I’ve had a successful and rewarding career to date, so it all worked out for me in the end.