Published on 24 May 2019
Emeli Sandé MBE, the multi-platinum selling singer and songwriter, is to become the University of Sunderland’s new Chancellor, following in the footsteps of Steve Cram CBE who steps down after 11 years in the role.
Emeli will be installed as Chancellor in a ceremony on 10 July 2019, during the University’s summer Academic Awards.
Emeli’s parents, Diane and Joel, studied together at Sunderland in the 1980s and Emeli was born in the city in 1987. In fact, her arrival coincided with their own graduation ceremony and meant they were unable to attend. In a remarkable turn of events, Emeli will confer her parents’ academic awards during her first ceremony as Chancellor.
Emeli’s passions for music and education have always run side by side. As she pursued her studies at the University of Glasgow, from where she graduated with a degree in neuroscience, her writing and performance skills were honed with gigs across the city.
Emeli commented: “Education and music are both central to who I am and I believe that both have the power to change lives for the better. So I am delighted that I can combine my passions in this new role.
“Sunderland was home to my parents while they were studying. I’ve always felt a strong connection to the city so it is a great personal honour for me to accept the role of Chancellor of the University.
“I plan to use my time as Chancellor to help others see their worth, realise their potential and break down barriers, whether real or imagined.”
John Mowbray OBE, Chair of the University’s Board of Governors, said: “The Board of Governors is delighted and excited to endorse the appointment of Emeli Sandé as our new Chancellor. It is a reflection of the growing confidence, ambition and ingenuity of this University.
“We have been hugely fortunate to have had two outstanding Chancellors in Lord David Puttnam and Steve Cram CBE. Both were unstinting in their support to the University of Sunderland as it developed into the institution it is today.”
The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell KCB, added: “Emeli breaks the mould when it comes to university chancellors. She represents a different generation and is someone of immense standing in her chosen profession.
"We are thrilled that Emeli has agreed to become the Chancellor of the University of Sunderland as her values chime with our own. She is a committed advocate for social justice, gender equality and access to education. She will be an outstanding role model for our students, graduates and staff.”
Mandi Purvis, President: Wellbeing at Sunderland Students’ Union said: “We are delighted to welcome Emeli home to Sunderland. It’s so important for our students to have positive role models and Emeli’s commitment to music, education, gender equality and social justice makes her an inspirational figure students can look up to and feel proud of.”
Bryan Pepple, President: Activities at Sunderland Students’ Union added: “It is very exciting to see such an inspirational woman confirmed as the new Chancellor at Sunderland. The Students’ Union shares her belief that education can be life changing and we look forward to welcoming her at this summer’s graduations.”
More on Emeli Sandé:
Emeli Sandé MBE 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.
Emeli wrote her first song at the age of 11 and showed a keen talent for music. 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.
Other key influences were the work of Nina Simone, one of her favourite artists, and Alicia Keys – her parents took her to the see the Songs in A Minor tour when she was 16 years old. She identified not just with the work of Keys but also her background, “she too was a great student who'd been top of her class, who played piano and loved Nina Simone”.
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 7 times in the UK and Ireland. She performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games and at the White House for Barack Obama. Her videos have had over 340 million video 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.
Emeli’s third album, Real Life, is scheduled for release on 21 June 2019 on VirginEMI and available for pre-order now. She performed the album live in its entirety at a special show in the Sadlers Wells Theatre in London on 20 May. A new song, ‘Extraordinary Being’, a collaboration with the X-MEN movie Dark Phoenix, will be released on Friday 24 May. More information here.
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.