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University of Sunderland's global family

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Published on 06 February 2020

University's global family
University's global family

Every year thousands of international students become part of the University of Sunderland’s global family.

Many arrive to make the city their new home, some opt to stay in their own countries and study through long distance learning programmes, while campuses in London and Hong Kong become the base for others.

The reach of the University community continues to extend to all parts of the globe, from Africa to Asia, America to Australia, studying with Sunderland is now a truly international experience.

Each student brings with them a rich diversity which makes a huge contribution to life in the region, while others spread the good word and reputation of the city and institution in their homelands thousands of miles away.

While many people maybe familiar with the international student contingent living on Wearside, the reality is that the arm of the University reaches much wider, to countries including Kenya, Uzbekistan, and Barbados.

Here we meet some of the students helping to create the diverse but united community we are proud to call the University of Sunderland.


Kenya, Africa

Nasreen Ali

Nasreen was named the University of Sunderland’s Alumni Achiever of the Year 2019 (Kenya).

The Business Management graduate is co-founder and chief financial officer at Cherchani Africa, a social enterprise which uses mobile technology to provide financial education to women and former street children who are running small businesses in Kenya.

Nasreen, 32, said: “My mother was a micro-entrepreneur, and I saw how difficult it was for her to keep her business sustainable. She borrowed from loan sharks whose high interest rates stagnated the potential of her business.

“Witnessing her struggles made me really empathise with women and girls with a vision to start and run their own businesses.”

In 2014 Nasreen co-founded Cherehani Africa with a vision of supporting communities through access to financial services.

Recently Nasreen also launched Afrikapu, a social-enterprise that sells African handmade products made by marginalised women and young people in Africa.

“We offer guidance and practical training methods to skilled, but marginalised, people.  By fostering a culture of personal development and balanced growth we are determined to contribute a sustainable business model, with strategic access to global markets.”


Barbados, eastern Caribbean 

Joel Manning

Joel Manning left behind his mum and brother at the family’s home in Saint Michael, Barbados, to take the next step towards achieving his life’s ambition.

The 27 year old has been playing cricket since he was a schoolboy and his passion for the game has led him to arrive on Wearside to take up an MA in Sports Journalism at the University.

Up until a few months ago, Joel had been working and living in Barbados and had never considered the path to his future career could begin in Sunderland.

Joel said: “After a bit of research on sports journalism courses in the UK, I chose Sunderland because it ranked among the top options. Their courses were NCTJ accredited allowing me to get both my degree and NCTJ qualifications.


“Beyond this I also saw that there were potential opportunities for me to interact with prospective employers in the media industry and also learn from lecturers who have experience in the field.

“My experience so far has been nothing short of amazing, although the weather is cold. The course content has been engaging and lectures have gone the extra mile to guide me towards my intended career path. 

“The media facilities and available equipment have made it easy to get the practical experience that employers are looking for today.” 


Hong Kong

Rose Hopewell-Fong

Rose grew up in Hong Kong but later moved to England to study, where she also represented England U20s in Rugby Union.

After a difficult decision to return home, she went on to represent Hong Kong 7s and 15s Rugby Union in a professional capacity.

While all this was going on, the now 29-year-old decided to embark on the University’s Independent Distance Learning PGCE programme, to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. 

Last year Rose picked up the University of Sunderland Alumni Achiever of the Year (Hong Kong) honour.

It will be yet another honour for Rose to add to her trophy cabinet, which already reflects her hard work, not to mention her multi-tasking skills.

In the last two years, she has started and completed her Masters in International Education with Sunderland and become mum to Olivia Margaret, now 17 months old.

Rose said: “There is no award for juggling multiple commitments in one’s personal life. An international sporting representative, a full time worker, a part time distance learner and becoming a mother – which will soon be twice - in just two years has been hectic yet so rewarding to say the least.

“Whilst we all strive to achieve goals in our careers post graduation, it is so nice to have an award that recognises the individual achievements in someone’s personal life as an amalgamation that can be celebrated wholly. Thank you University of Sunderland.”


Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University, has spent much of the past year visiting the international family in different parts of the world.

He said: “The University has an exceptional international reach, with longstanding partnerships running from the Caribbean, across Africa, through the Middle East and into the Far East.

“With some of these in existence now for 20 years then the number of students who have studied degrees with our partners now number in the many thousands. This gives Sunderland a rich picture of alumni spanning the world and in many sectors, with some reaching very high levels of office.

“In Kenya this year the alumni dinner brought together graduates from two decades of our work there. There were entrepreneurs, senior government figures, and executives from a range of sectors. The graduation in Trinidad was very much a family affair and it was amazing to meet four generations of women from one family who were there to support and recognise the achievement of the first in their family to achieve a degree.

“Travelling to Uzbekistan realised our more recent engagement with a rapidly growing country, with a young population demographic and exceptional economic expansion the employability and value of these graduates to support the national ambition was exceptional.

“However, whether in Nairobi, Trinidad, Tashkent, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India or Sunderland, it is clear that the students all go forward with strong ambition, optimism and a desire to really make a difference.

“The same is true of the many nationalities of students who come to study with us in Sunderland. Often coming from regions which are more able to support the cost of studying away from home, they are looking for a UK higher education experience.

“The cohorts we deal with are diverse and as such the many world-views come together in the classroom. This is beneficial for all students, after all, we are preparing professionals for the global careers they may have in the future.

“Overall, being a global university enriches the learning and lives of all of our students, whether they travel or not. They gain greater world views and experiences, have access to opportunities which they otherwise would not and are able to move forward with greater skills in preparation for a global career.

“Yes, the income which is generated for the University, Sunderland, and the wider North East, is important, but the greater value comes from the broader economical and societal benefits which arise from these activities.”