by Lee Pinkerton
UEL postgraduate and undergraduate students celebrated their achievements at the University’s Winter Graduation at ExCel London on 22 November.
During two ceremonies, 1,100 students walked across the stage in front of 5,000 guests.
Leanne Earle, who battled with Crohn’s disease while studying for her MSc in Counselling Psychology, said she was grateful for the opportunity to earn a degree from UEL.
Leanne said, “What UEL does really well is that it nurtures people’s difference, and it nurtures people’s belief in themselves.
“I’m a mature student, and I never expected to get to university. Mine wasn’t a typical pathway. I was doing hairdressing, then I started volunteering, and my interest grew from there.”
Sociology graduate Rita Abifade said it was a joyful day for her entire family. Rita earned her BA degree after spending part of last year taking care of her teenage son, Godwin, as he recovered from a gunshot wound.
On Thursday, Godwin proudly watched his mother accept her degree.
Rita said, “I feel so happy to be graduating today, to be surrounded by my husband, my two daughters and my son.”
Godwin is currently in the second year of his A levels and, inspired by his mother, hopes to attend university to study sports and business.
UEL also awarded honorary doctorates on Thursday to Ford executive Steven Armstrong and Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, governor of Zamfara State in Nigeria.
Derek Wiltshire received a postgraduate diploma in career coaching.
Derek said, “Having spent 25 years out of the classroom, I really wanted to get back, and it was great that UEL offered me the opportunity to do that, and supported me through it.
“I ended up with a distinction, which is something I’d never achieved before in my academic career and I’m really proud of. I think UEL really has something special in these postgraduate courses, in that it brings people together from all walks of life, and all stages of life, and we bond and we enjoy learning.”
One extra special ‘graduate’ was 60-year-old Krishna James, who walked across the stage 22 years after earning her degree in art history.
Krishna missed out on her own ceremony in 1996 due to the premature birth of her son. Several months ago, her son contacted UEL to see if his mother could be given a dispensation to participate in this year’s ceremonies. On Thursday, Krishna’s family watched her walk across the stage at ExCel London.
Krishna said, “It feels very emotional to be here today. I had given up any hope that I would attend my own graduation ceremony. I was just glad that I had a lovely son and that he eventually went to university himself, and that was enough.
“For me education is so important and it was difficult for me to get to university, and now my son has a job which helps young people in Newham get to university. Maybe this is how it was meant to be.”