The 91-year-old Sunderland graduate: former polytechnic students recognised

Written by on 21st March 2024

Photo Credit: University of Sunderland

Before becoming a university in 1992 Sunderland was a polytechnic, an accumulation of Sunderland Technical College, The Sunderland School of Art, and Sunderland Teacher Training College which came together in 1969.

All students who graduated from the teacher training college were presented with a ‘certificate of education’ as opposed to an honours degree. These students never had the opportunity to be awarded a bachelor’s degree.

The university decided that they would celebrate these former students for their achievements the university previously refused to recognise, allowing them to complete their rite of passage.

128 alumni attended this special graduation ceremony, where they were all awarded honorary degrees, including Sheila Coates age 91 who attended Sunderland College of Education studying for a teaching qualification in PE in 1950 and retired from teaching over 40 years ago.  

All the graduates now in their seventies and eighties got to finally reap the rewards of the hard work they put into the college many years ago at a beautiful ceremony held at the Stadium of Light.  

Professor Lynne McKenna, from Sunderland University, said: “Those teachers have given such a lot back to our region and yet they have not been afforded the opportunity to study for a degree and as other universities were doing this retrospectively we thought it would be a really nice thing to do, to celebrate those staff who have given so much to the region.” 

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, said: “The University is delighted to recognise and honour a cohort of graduates who gave outstanding service to education in the city, the region and far beyond too. 

“While the world has changed in so many ways, those present represent the timeless pursuit and sharing of knowledge which remain at the heart of human progress. 

“In joining us for this most special graduation ceremony, our newest graduates complete a journey that began many years ago and stands as testament to the enduring nature of the human spirit.” 

Photo Credit: University of Sunderland

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