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Belong, Believe, Achieve: Emmanuel Nartey achieves results on the judo mat and in academia 

UEL sports scholar and PhD candidate has won gold at BUCS three years in a row

Emmanuel Nartey is a high achiever in the field of both academia and sport. 

A Judo sports scholar at the University of East London (UEL) Emmanuel has won gold for three years running at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) National Championships and competed for Ghana at the Olympics. And he’s also on the verge of completing his PhD in International Law and Human Rights Law.

His sporting and academic ambitions just didn’t seem attainable while growing up in his native Ghana.

“I was a good athlete, but my parents were very poor,” he explains, “so I he couldn’t finish my education.  I always had the desire to educate myself, but there was no means to do it.” 

So in 2002, when Emmanuel turned 18, he decided to move to England to pursue his dream and to join the British Army. After living in Manchester for a year, working as a cleaner in a pub and practising judo every hour in-between, Emmanuel began his army training. His judo talents were soon spotted by his commanding officer and Emmanuel was taken to team Bath’s high performance judo centre.

He was there for five years, captaining the army Judo team and was voted the Army Sportsman of The Year.  But Emmanuel yearned to get back into education, though he was by no means ready to start a degree.  So in 2008 he enrolled at the City of Bath college to do a HNC in Business and Human Resources.

“It was a big shock for me. It was very difficult, because I was 25, sitting in a class with 17 and 18 year old students, who didn’t really want to study. But in life when you decide to achieve something, it doesn’t really matter how difficult it is. You just have to go for it.”

The next year he enrolled at the University of Plymouth to take a Certificate of Higher Education in Engineering and in 2013 to the University of the West of England, to do a BA in Business Management and Business Law, followed by a Master’s degree in International Trade and Economic Law.

In 2015 he left the south of England to come to the University of East London (UEL) to do a PhD in International Law and Human Rights Law which he hopes to complete this year. Two things attracted him to UEL – both the support which UEL gives to its sports scholars, and the academic who would be supervising his thesis.

“Jeremy Gilbert is one of the leading experts in the field.  He used to be at the United Nations. He has left now, but he used to be my project supervisor.

Balancing the academic side and the sport side is very good here.  It makes balancing the life of a student with the life of an athlete very easy. I couldn’t do that at other universities.”

Despite his dogged pursuit of further and higher education over the last few years, Emmanuel’s sporting career has continued unabated.  

As well as winning gold for three years running at the BUCS Championships and representing Ghana at the 2012 Olympics, he hopes to compete at the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.  At the age of 37!

“Maybe thirty years ago it wouldn’t have been possible to compete at the top level at my age. But now because of scientific advances in training methods, you can go on much longer as an athlete.  You have people retiring from Judo at the age of 38, or 39.   At the moment when I training and I’m competing I don’t feel likes there’s anything I can’t do. I feel just the same as when I started.”