The AboutUS space is using the Blog Mode!
View this blog in blog mode


Four years ago Jo Xuan Tan made the life-changing decision to leave her home in South East Asia and travel thousands of miles to begin a pharmacy degree at the University of Sunderland.

Today that career decision has paid off, for not only has Jo achieved First Class Honours, but she has also picked up an annual prize for her outstanding performance throughout the MPharm degree.

Academics chose Jo as this year’s worthy recipient of the Roz Anderson Memorial Award, honouring the memory of an inspirational scientist dedicated to improving the treatment of patients with a rare life-threatening genetic disease.

Return to AboutUS

Professor Anderson, who sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2018, was a Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Sunderland. In her 31-year career as a researcher at the University she worked on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, diagnosis of bacterial infections, psoriasis and cancer, but her particular passion was the battle against the rare genetic disorder Cystinosis.

Before her death she organised with her family and University staff an annual prize dedicated in her memory to an outstanding pharmacy student, who would reflect Roz’s devotion to supporting scientific research designed to improve the lives of others, her strong belief in teamwork and making a difference in society by inspiring future generations.

Jo, 24, from Malaysia, is the second student to be chosen for the award, for her outstanding performance across all areas of the MPharm programme.

On receiving the accolade, Jo said: “I felt really grateful, but was surprised at the same time as it came unexpectedly. I chose to study pharmacy because I like the subject and have always wanted to show my care for others in one way or another.

“My family have been so proud of my achievements throughout my entire degree and were really glad that they made the decision to allow me to study at Sunderland after completing my GCE A levels in Singapore. It really has been a life-changing experience.”

Jo Xuan Tan

Jo added: “Sunderland is so well-known for its pharmacy programme and I liked the approach the university took to my course. I enjoyed it very much.

“I also liked the way our lecturers delivered the programme, the contents they included really helped to prepare us for the working world. They have been so friendly, approachable and helpful which became a motivation for me to work harder.”

Asked how she coped in the final year of her course during the Covid 19 lockdown, Jo explained: “I was studying and revising at home during the lockdown period using online materials and pre-recorded lectures provided. Although there was less freedom, it allowed me to fully focus on my study and the occasional conference meetings with our lecturers allowed the teachings to remain interactive.”

Now she has graduated, Jo will be working as a pre-reg pharmacist for the University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust. She hopes to work in hospital pharmacy in the future back in the North East, an area she has come to love as her home.

Lynzie Middleton, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy, said: “Jo has been the top performing student right the way through the programme. She has particularly excelled in the science-based content which is in line with the memorial award. We are all incredibly proud of her achievements and she thoroughly deserves this success.”

Lindsay Parkin, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice and Clinical Therapeutics, added: “We believe Jo is an outstanding recipient of this award who reflects the values that Professor Anderson was so passionate about. We wish her the very best in her future career.”

Roz Anderson herself was an award winner and picked up a WIN Award in the STEM Category at the Network North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2016. Her win was due in part to her strong belief in teamwork and making a difference in society by inspiring future generations. Despite her intense research work, Roz insisted on working alongside undergraduate and PhD students and post-doctoral scientists, working to ensure that young people are advocates for the advancement of medicine and society.

Roz’s work was also not confined purely to the lab, and she made a point of meeting and discussing her work with the children affected by rare genetic disease Cystinosis and their families, which she maintained was an essential aspect of her work.

Roz Anderson

Asked if Jo has any advice to students thinking about studying pharmacy at Sunderland, she said: “If you are thinking of applying for the pharmacy course, rest assured that you will be provided with high-quality teaching and useful materials, but the most important factor that determines whether you can get the most out of it lies on your perseverance and the commitment you are willing to give.

“It may not be an easy journey for you to embark on but I can assure you that it will definitely be a rewarding one!”

First class delivery

A young business student has graduated this summer, and walked into a post in one of the world’s biggest companies, Amazon UK.

Ellie McKenna, 21, from Sunderland has just graduated with a BA (Hons) Business and Applied Human Resource Management degree. She is about to begin a new role as a HR Associate Partner with Amazon.

“I will be working in the new Amazon plant at Durham,’ says Ellie, “I am really eager to begin my career in the HR sector.”

Return to AboutUS

Ellie, who studied at City of Sunderland College and Venerable Bede Church of England Secondary School, was keen to do a degree with a practical element, and applied for the Business and Applied Human Resource Management course as it offered a one-year placement opportunity.

“In my placement I worked as an HR Assistant at Caterpillar, and still studied part time,” says Ellie.  “My placement year was such a fantastic opportunity which enhanced my academic skills and general knowledge of the business sector.

“Originally I was undecided if I should apply for a placement, but my lectures and student support team offered me some great advice, and on reflection it was a fantastic opportunity which has allowed me to start to build a career.”

The placement paid off for Ellie. She graduated with a First Class Honours degree and was awarded the outstanding student achievement award in Business and Applied Human Resource Management, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development North East of England Branch Committee prize for Best Business and Applied Human Resource Management student.

Now Ellie is about to begin her new role at Amazon UK, and believes that living and studying in her home city has been the right choice for her.

“Living and growing up in Sunderland drove my decision to study at the University of Sunderland. I love the beach and I enjoy going for walks around nearby places such as Durham, Penshaw Monument and Herrington Country Park, and spending time with my friends and family. I was also able save to travel while studying in my hometown. I was able to visit Bali, Singapore, Las Vegas, Spain, Krakow, Amsterdam, Dubai and Thailand.

“Studying at the University of Sunderland is an amazing opportunity which allows you to develop yourself both personally and professionally and is a catalyst for your future career.”

The show must go on


While theatres remain closed due to Covid 19 - Sunderland academics alongside a renowned regional stage director have devised an online learning opportunity offering students access to some of the UK’s leading playwrights.

Each year, a collaboration between Newcastle’s Live Theatre and second year University of Sunderland students offers access to the venue and interviews with actors and writers as part of their Performing Arts degree.

However, because of the impact of coronavirus, the module is moving online and has so far secured the support of playwrights Lee Hall, Willy Russell, Shelagh Stephenson and actor Brian Lonsdale (The Pitmen Painters and My Romantic History) - all will be working directly with the students next term through online live interviews.

Return to AboutUS


Willy Russell

Dr Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader for Screen Performance, is working in partnership with the Live Theatre and its Emeritus Associate Director Max Roberts, also a Visiting Professor of Theatre Studies at the University, taking the initiative with digital theatre and continuing to enhance the student learning experience by moving the ‘Page to Stage’ module online.

Adelle explained: 'Working out alternative delivery for any module is not easy, so we are extremely excited that not only are we able to offer the students something close to original delivery but we are able to actually go beyond this in engaging such prestigious industry figures to influence and underpin the work.

“We have always had such a great relationship with Max Roberts and Live Theatre, and the care and attention they provide to the student's learning is tantamount to how successful our residency with Live Theatre has been.

“Max is offering the students such a great and bespoke experience and I know the involvement of such developed playwrights will be a real benefit to the student's learning and the programme as a whole. We are so excited to get started!”

Max added: “I'm delighted to confirm that Willy Russell, Lee Hall and Shelagh Stephenson have agreed to make a contribution to the BA (hons) Performing Arts course this coming Autumn. Their vast experience and outstanding achievements in writing for stage and screen will provide a unique and valuable insight into the Industry and give an unprecedented profile to our work at the University of Sunderland.

“Joining them for the special online live interviews will be Olivier Hannah and Elijah Young, two young and fast developing writing talents currently under commission from Live Theatre. Their contemporary sensibilities will bring great diversity to our season of guest interviews and I believe our students will find an immediate identification with these younger talented writers who have recently entered the profession.”

Visiting Professor of Theatre Max Roberts

Adding their voices, Willy Russell, best known for Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers and Educating Rita which Max recently directed for its 40th Anniversary National tour,  said: “I’m delighted and more than happy to contribute to the University’s series of guest interviews and look forward to it. It’s an impressive list of writers.”

Lee Hall, known for the 2000 film Billy Elliot, The Pitmen Painters directed by Max, Network and the recent screenplay for Rocket Man, said: “It’s brilliant that you have put together such an interesting group of writers to talk to your students. I’m especially delighted that Elijah Young and Olivier Hannah are included, who represent Live Theatre’s commitment to supporting younger and emerging writers.”

Lee Hall

Shelagh Stephenson, the actress and writer known for Memory of Water’ Oliver Award winning best play, Five Kinds of Silence, and for Live Theatre’s A Northern Odyssey and Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing directed by Max, said: “I’m very happy to contribute to the project and look forward to it and being involved with the young creatives who can map the future.”

Max Roberts has directed many plays at Live Theatre which has earned a national and international reputation as a Centre of new writing for the stage.

They include The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, which was also staged in New York and at the National Theatre before embarking on a UK tour, Wet House by Paddy Campbell and Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing by Shelagh Stephenson.


A Sunderland PhD graduate has once again offered his expertise on two gruesome crimes more than a century ago as part of the BBC One's Murder, Mystery and My Family programme.

Dr Patrick Low, who researches 18th and 19th-century executions in the North East, appeared in the latest series of the programme which investigates historical convictions using available sources. Click below to watch, or catch up on iPlayer:

Return to AboutUS

The latest series will feature two North East executions.

The first is the case of Durham Light Infantry solider John Stephenson Bainbridge, convicted of murdering 75-year-old solicitor’s clerk Edward Frederick Herdman, battered at his home in Bishop Auckland and his throat cut. In what became known as the “Ten-minute Alibi” case, Bainbridge protested his innocence until his death sentence at Durham Prison in May 1935. The case attracted national attention, including that of self-made millionaire Violet van der Elst, a campaigner for the abolition of Capital Punishment. The case went to the Court of Criminal Appeal, but was dismissed by the Home Secretary. Violet even offered a £350 reward for a mystery women, who could provide an alibi for Bainbridge, but never came forward.

Patrick explained: This was a particularly interesting case and famous because of Violet’s involvement, whose life work was campaigning against the death penalty. The execution attracted protests and Violet addressed the crowds with a megaphone. There’s visual evidence of this episode, with photos and newspaper cuttings and the focus of the campaign which took place. There was also the anonymous letter sent saying Bainbridge was innocent and said they had vital information. As part of the programme, I told the story of the day and what happened as the crowds gathered and protests took place.

The second case - The Butterknowle Tragedy, features the execution of Joseph Lowson in May 1884, for his part in the murder of police Sgt William Smith, stoned to death in Butterknowle Village, Durham. Lowson was originally sentenced to death alongside William Siddle. Joseph Hodgson, was also involved and on trial Hodgson was acquitted. Lowson was sentenced to death and hanged. However, as he was about to die, his last words were that Siddle was innocent but Hogdson had struck the first blow. Siddle would later receive a reprieve. 

The case goes into detail of the how spooked the executioner was during the hanging of Lowson, due to his calm demeanour, pulling the lever the wrong way and trembling more than the prisoner himself.

Patrick said: “Lowson’s family in this case were very emotional and moved by the case, and felt it was an unfair conviction. This was surprising as usually the families have no connection time wise but are interested in a general, historical sense.”

Last year Patrick made his first appearance on the show, which featured the execution of Michael Gilligan, hanged alongside William McHugh and Elizabeth Pearson at Durham Prison in 1875. Patrick met the family, and talked about the execution and gives details about the prisoners' final moments. 

Patrick was a Culture Beacon-funded PhD student at the University of Sunderland, his thesis is entitled: 'Capital Punishment in the North East of England 1800-1878 and Post-Mortem Punishment 1752-1878.’ He has now completed his thesis and graduates this year.

In 2015 he won the 'People's Choice' Award for the North East ‘3 minute thesis’ competition. He also writes a blog, and his research interests include death, burial, the newspapers and punishment.

Patrick, from Newcastle, explained: “I had been writing a lot about my research on my blog and the production team wanted to specifically show someone related to the person executed and what happens with the crime eventually, so I was covering the executions and trying to fill them in on how that happened and what an execution was like at that time.”

In the programme leading barristers Jeremy Dein and Sasha Wass re-examine the evidence to establish if a wrong conviction has been made.

About Patrick Low

Patrick’s interest in 19th-century executions in the North East, began when he first studied his BA History and Politics degree at Sheffield University, and became interested in 18th century crime and punishment.

His career took him on an entirely different path, working in television production for the BBC and various independent production companies.

However, the opportunity to reignite his interest came when scholarship funding became available at the University of Sunderland to study a PhD.

Patrick began his research in 2014, under the supervision of Professor Peter Rushton, Professor of Historical Sociology, who has also co-authored a book on 18th century crime and punishment: Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law. The Problem of Law Enforcement in North East England 1718-1800.

During his studies he has also worked on the University of Leicester and Wellcome Trust’s Harnessing of the Power of the Criminal Corpse project and was responsible for designing and building the projects’ website (

Patrick has signed a book contract with Dr Clare Sandford-Couch and Helen Rutherford of Northumberland. It is an edited collection on 19th century execution culture. The book will be published as part of this series ( due for publication later this year. Alongside his research, he also continues his own work in production for television, online and corporate outlets.

He said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Sunderland and am grateful for all the support I was given.

“Alongside the book, I would also like to incorporate my filming work with my research involving the stories of execution in the region.”

For more information go to


If you’re a little bit nervous about arriving at the University of Sunderland in September, your Students’ Union Buddies can help you settle in and make the most of your time studying with us.

The programme matches incoming students who are nervous about commencing their studies with a current student who may be of a similar age, gender identity or course.

Your buddy will act as a friendly face helping you to meet new people, familiarise yourself with the University services and campuses, boost your confidence and discover the beautiful city of Sunderland.

If you’d like a buddy or want to find out more, visit:

Return to AboutUS

The University has provided many bursaries and packages of support to its students since the pandemic began. Faced with increasing demand, and the prospect of continued disruption over the coming months, the University’s Development Office has launched the COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund.

Sir David Bell KCB, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, says: “The COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund is a vital response to the financial difficulties being faced by many of our students as a result of the pandemic. Through the generosity of our partner Santander, which has contributed £11,000, and the University’s own £30,000 contribution, the Fund is off to a flying start.

“We have also raised, in a very short time, over £7,000 from alumni and other friends of the University. Now, I am inviting our own staff to join me in making a donation. The size does not matter as every bit will help.

“From early conversations, I know that many staff will want to contribute, even as their own finances are under some strain as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. That speaks to the big-hearted spirit of everyone who works at the University of Sunderland.”

To find out more about the University of Sunderland’s COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund, go to the Development Office website HERE.

Return to AboutUS

"I was halfway through my MA when lockdown hit. We were advised to be with our families and continue our course remotely; something very challenging for a fully practical course on many levels.

"Finding any work at this time to support myself through my studies was impossible, as was applying for any other external help such as Universal Credit.

"Receiving the money from the Hardship Fund really felt like a lifeline to me; it meant that I could keep up with my rent and bills for my flat, and I was able to focus on completing my Masters without the immediate worry of eviction. Thank you to the University."

Kennedy Obohwemu, 37, from Nigeria, is in the first year of PhD Public Health

"As a self-funded international student, I rely heavily on the proceeds from income at home to pay my tuition fees.

"The COVID-19 pandemic virtually crippled the economy back home, making it extremely difficult to make ends meet.

"Businesses have been shut down and it will take quite a while for things to return to normal. The COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund was so important, as it provided me hope just when all hope seemed lost.”

To find out more about the University of Sunderland’s COVID-19 Emergency Hardship Fund, go to the Development Office website HERE.

We have moved the student email service from Google to Office 365.

You can no longer use your university Google email account to read and send any new emails. Existing emails will still be available to access for reference.

If you have any documents in your university Google account that you wish to keep then you should start to move them to your Office 365 account.

We will close access to your university Google account on 31 December 2020.

Return to AboutUS

Laura Tokell, Visitor Services Assistant at National Glass Centre, writes about her experiences of biphobia and bisexual+ erasure, and examines some of myths around bisexuality.

Return to AboutUS

Our identity is one of the most important aspects of our lives, but for many - especially within the bisexual+ community- being oneself does not come easily. I include myself here as, after years of deliberation and reconsideration over how I would describe my sexuality, I believe the closest fit for me is pansexual (a term encompassed under the bisexual+ (bi+) umbrella).

My own and others experiences relating to bisexual+ identity have sparked my consideration of challenges bi+ people experience and how our bi+ students and staff can be supported in relation to a specific type of biphobia,  bisexual+ erasure. This occurs when someone’s bisexuality or bisexuality in general is re-explained, discredited or ignored. It also includes a range of damaging myths and stereotypical beliefs about bisexuality. I hope this piece will improve understanding of, dispel some myths about the bisexual+ community.

Although much has been achieved in the development of LGBTQI+ rights, inclusion and awareness, the “B” (and the “T”) are often overlooked. Therefore, many LGBTQI+ researchers and experts believe there to be a 10-20 year lag in progress of bisexual (and transgender) rights when compared to lesbian and gay rights. Over 70% of bi+ people reported feeling excluded from both LBGTQ+ and straight spaces as they feel ostracised and have a diminished sense of self-worth as a result of bi+ erasure.

According to a study by euroClinix, 7% of the UK population identify as being on the bisexual+ spectrum, making us the biggest population within the LGB community-53%.  Nevertheless, Stanford University found, in comparison to 75% of gay or lesbian people, only 19% of bisexuals are out to the important people in their lives. Stonewall research also revealed the workplace to be very challenging, resulting in over 38% of bi+ people not being out to anyone at work, in comparison to 18% of lesbian and gay people.

Additionally, in an anonymous Yougov survey, a vast 49% 18-24 year olds identified a bisexual, which supports the premise of this article. If such a significant amount of people identify as bisexual+ then why are so few people out?

We know that both students and staff are happier and more successful when they feel a sense of safety, acceptance belonging and freedom to be their true selves. A good place to start in facilitating this for bi+ people, and tackling bi+ erasure, is an examination of your own views, which is why I have chosen to talk about some of the common myths around bisexuality.

Laura Tokell

Myth: Bisexuality is not real, it is just a phase. Eventually bisexuals get over their confusion or indecision and choose to be either heterosexual or homosexual. 

Reality: Some people do explore their sexuality whilst discovering their gay, lesbian or heterosexual identity. However, bisexuality is long term or permanent for most. Bisexuals make up the largest proportion of the LGBTQ+ community. For many bisexual people, any confusion over their identity is created by the oppressive denial of their sexuality by both heterosexual and queer people, they are not simply “sitting on the fence”.

Myth: Bisexual people are just greedy. They get the best of both worlds with a doubled chance for a relationship.

Reality: Bisexual people are less likely to find a relationship in which their sexuality is fully accepted. Within the general LGBTQ+ community, bi+ erasure also exists along with the myths and stereotypes creating hesitance to accept bisexuals. Outside the LGBTQI+ community there is are the additions of homophobia and extreme heteronormativity, which create multiple barriers to dating and relationships for bisexual people. Also, being bisexual does not give you magical powers of attraction. Personality still counts!

Myth: Bisexual people are just trying do be trendy, experimental, politically correct etc. They are actually heterosexual. 

Reality: Whilst there are some people who will identify as bisexual for these reasons, this does not disaffirm the existence of bisexuality. It is up to an individual to define their own sexuality. It can be just as hard (if not harder) for a bisexual person to come out as it is for others in the LGBTQI+ community. The pain and confusion they may suffer is just as real as any other, and their pride in coming out should be celebrated!

Myth: Bisexual people have not fully accepted themselves and will eventually come out of the closet, they are actually gay/lesbian.

Reality: Bisexuality is a legally protected, legitimate sexual identity separate from other LGBTQ+ identities. Despite legal protections, bisexual people still share the debilitating experience of heteronormativity (the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and thereby rendering other sexual identities deviant and/or invisible) with the wider LGBTQI+ population. Heteronormativity fosters fear, hatred and discrimination against none heterosexual people, meaning bisexual people are needing and deserving of the same protections as the rest of the LGBTQI+ community.

Myth: Bisexual people are untrustworthy, hedonistic and immoral players. They will always cheat in a relationship and often date men and women concurrently.

Reality: Bisexual people are no more or less likely to display these characteristic or to cheat than people of any other sexual orientation. Being attracted to more than one sex/gender does not automatically make you untrustworthy.

Myth: HIV is spread by bisexual people to the lesbian and heterosexual community.

Reality: Unfortunately, this is a myth which gives people a perceived “legitimate” reason to discriminate against bisexuals. However, people of all sexual orientations can contract and pass on HIV, Sexual orientation does not “cause” HIV and AIDS. There are several ways HIV can be contracted, including unsafe sex and a person’s sexual orientation does not tell us whether they practice safe sex.

Myth: Bisexuals cannot find peace and are doomed to live awful lives.

Reality: Joining the fight against discrimination, including bi+ erasure is a great way to support bisexual people, if you are worried about their happiness. Most bisexual people, along with the rest of the LGBTQI+ community, will confirm that a lot of the pain in their lives stems from oppression.

Of course, this is just a starting point and more practical tips for support and inclusion of bisexual people can be found in guidance from organisations such as the charities Stonewall and Mind,

Laura Tokell
Postgraduate Open Day

Thursday 3 September, 5pm-8pm - BOOK NOW 

Explore the University’s fantastic campus, hear from students and staff and delve further into your course, all without stepping out of your home. Our team of experts will be on live chat to answer any questions you may have.

Our Online Postgraduate Open Day will give you the opportunity to:

  • Find out more about our wide range of courses
  • Explore our campus and its amazing facilities
  • Learn about the Postgraduate Loan
  • Find out more about the benefits of holding a postgraduate qualification 

Grab a cuppa, sit back, relax and make that life changing moment by joining us for our Online Postgraduate Open Day.

Return to AboutUS



Recently there has been a lot of positive work done in the community while the world has tried to adjust to a new way of living post Covid-19. One Sunderland student has put aside personal difficulty to help young people in the region, thanks to the continued support of her university and a local charity.

Many students have faced a difficult period as some businesses and charities have been unable to continue with essential placements, but for Michelle Dias the support of Barnardo’s Newcastle Young People’s Support Team has meant she has taken one step closer to her dream of becoming a social worker.

Return to AboutUS

Michelle, 38, originally from South Shields is in the second year of her Social Work degree. When the lockdown came into force Michelle was fortunate that Barnardo’s were able to continue with her placement remotely – but working remotely and learning new skills was far from easy.

“Personally and professionally it has been both a challenging and a positive experience.” Say Michelle. “Working remotely can be isolating, and I am very thankful to my placement team for their daily contact, and allowing me the opportunity to try new ways of keeping in touch with the young people on my caseload.”

Fiona Ellaway, Children’s Services Manager from the Newcastle Young People’s Support Team in Cowgate Community Family Centresays: “We are happy that Michelle was able to continue her placement with us and she was able to finish it. We treated and supported Michelle as another member of staff or service volunteer. We have also been asked by the university to see if any of their students who couldn’t finish can do their end of placement with us, which we are exploring.”

Dealing with the pressures of finding a new way of working during her placement was challenging enough, but Michelle had the added pressure of family illness.

“Two weeks into my placement my Nanna, who is like a mother to me, had a bad fall and was admitted to hospital,” says Michelle. “She was temporarily moved into a care home for convalescence and due to the lockdown restrictions I was suddenly unable to visit my Nanna.

“It was a stressful and worrying time for me, and I really appreciated the support provided by my placement and my university tutor. I was privileged to be able to continue my placement despite the change from working in a busy office to becoming full-time home based.

“I feel that I rose to the challenge. I worked closely with the team and took the lead with some of the work with young people, bringing fresh perspectives and insight into the work, especially in some of the more complex cases.”

Stephen Mordue, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Sunderland, and Michelle’s personal tutor, says: “We have worked in partnership with Barnardo’s to provide student social work placements for many years. This year, for obvious reasons, has been challenging in terms of social work student placements across the region with many placement having to be ‘paused’. Despite this the student we had placed with Barnardo’s has had an excellent learning experience.

"Even though there was a need to move to homeworking because of COVID19 situation Michelle remained supported very effectively by Carol Preston, in her role as on-site supervisor, and the broader team.

"The opportunities provided to Michelle were of a high standard in challenging circumstances and have allowed her to finish placement on time. This is in no small part due to the organisation having a strong commitment to our students and their learning. We are extremely grateful for this and look forward to further placements in the coming years."

Michelle added: “Having the opportunity to practice essential communication skills with visiting service-users has been great for my personal development. The lecturers are all qualified social workers, bringing their real-life experiences into the teaching, and they are approachable, passionate and knowledgeable. I have certainly learned more about technology and video conferences than I was expecting!”

Though her Nanna is still in a care home Michelle has been writing to her throughout the lockdown. “I managed to see her on her birthday after over three months of no visits. Unfortunately, my Nanna is hard of hearing so she struggled to hear us during the visit due to the social distancing, which also means we have been unable to speak to Nanna on the phone during the lockdown.

“Nanna has Alzheimer's disease, which is progressing, and I was worried she would no longer recognise us, but I’m so happy to say that she did. Her face lit up when we arrived in the care home's garden.”

Sunderland has become one of just seven universities in the UK to offer an innovative nursing degree programme to train the lifesavers of tomorrow.

During the past four months, University of Sunderland-trained nurses have played an important role in providing support on the NHS frontline during the height of Covid-19.

Now, Health Education England (HEE) has announced Sunderland as one of seven universities set to introduce a blended learning nursing degree programme.

Return to AboutUS

As set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to help grow the nursing workforce in the UK, this innovative approach to learning maximises the opportunities to provide a fully interactive and innovative programme through a digital approach.

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said: “We are delighted to be one of the delivery partners of the new blended learning nursing degree programme.

“This flexible programme will give students access to learning while still making it easy to balance family or carer roles during their studies.

“Working with our NHS Trust partners the Sunderland programme will be delivered using the latest technologies available to ensure student’s meet the NMC standards to become a registered adult nurse.”

The innovative, accessible nursing degree programme will start from April/May 2021 and is designed to create a significantly different offer in nursing education that will establish a professional nurse workforce suited to the demands of care and service now and in the future.

The importance of the nursing profession has been highlighted in recent months and the University is continuing to play a leading role in providing the regional and UK workforce with the best trained nurses.

Simone Bedford, Team Leader for Post-Grad Nursing, said: “The funding from Health Education England will enable the team here to develop two innovative new programmes in adult nursing.  This will support the growth of registered nurses in the North East, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and London.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced the seven delivery partners for the new degree. They are Open University & Middlesex University, Open University & University of West of England, Coventry University, University of Huddersfield, University of Sunderland, University of Gloucestershire and Birmingham City University.

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation for Health Education England, said: “This is a critical and ambitious programme of work, to support the introduction of blended learning degrees in healthcare. It shows the way to the future of educating and training our workforce, with the use of existing and emerging learning technologies.

“This approach has been accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it will really help to enable wider access to nursing degrees for people who may previously have had barriers to a nursing career.”

We are moving the student email service from Google to Office 365.

This migration will take place between 24–27 July 2020.

For further information and guidance on how to make changes to your devices,  and how to access your university email once migrated visit:

Return to AboutUS

The summer series of Launchpad LIVE webinars from the Sunderland Futures team continue this week.

The webinars are part of the team’s Launchpad programme. If you’ve just graduated, you can receive three years of free careers support, including a personalised plan packed with a range of careers services and support; all aimed at launching your graduate career. Your student access will soon run out so you will need to register as a graduate. 

And, for continuing students the summer is a perfect time to start packing skills and experience you need for your future.
There’s no better time than NOW to start thinking about your career options and what you need to make your dreams into a reality. The Sunderland Futures team are here all across the summer to give you a headstart.

Return to AboutUS

An arresting takeover

On Tuesday, Durham Constabulary took over the Sunderland Futures Instagram channel for a special ‘Meet the Employer’ careers event.

Working with the Sunderland Futures Opportunities Team, Sergeant Shaz Sadiq gave students and graduates information on what life is like as a Police Officer, an insight into the Police Officer recruitment process and what is required to be successful. Sergeant Sadiq also answered questions from students live during the 4-hour event.

Laura Hope, Opportunities Coordinator from the Sunderland Futures team said “It was great to hold an event like this with an employer like Durham Constabulary using Instagram. Policing offers such a huge range of career options for our students. We’re really grateful to the students and graduates who got involved on the day, and we hope to run similar events with other employers in the future.”

If you’re interested in opportunities with Durham Police and more you can see the latest vacancies for students on Sunderland Futures online. And, if you’re thinking of applying, you can get 1-2-1 support with your application and interview.

Sergeant Sadiq said “It’s been a pleasure speaking to University of Sunderland students about opportunities with Durham Constabulary. We received some great questions which shows how much interest there is in careers in the police service.”

You can view the whole takeover on the UoSFutures Instagram.

Return to AboutUS



While the majority of school pupils are still in lockdown at home, the largest study into school exclusions in England has found that major improvements are needed in the current system.  

Five in-depth research publications led by Sarah Martin-Denham, an academic with her research team at our University, make a series of recommendations to government, to prevent more pupils from losing out on their education. 

The study was commissioned by Together for Children Sunderland, which provides children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council. It sought to provide clarity on the experiences of children at risk of exclusion or those permanently excluded from school, and learn the factors leading to the exclusion and the impact on their lives, mental health and learning.  

Return to AboutUS

To reach her findings Sarah Martin-Denham, a Senior Lecturer in Education at Sunderland, gathered the views of 174 participants, including 55 children aged five to 16. The children and young people had been permanently excluded, received fixed-period exclusions or were on the verge of school exclusions. Caregivers, health professionals, headteachers and special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) also all gave their views through lengthy interviews.   

Some of Sarah’s findings suggest that mainstream schooling is having a detrimental effect on some children, particularly those with existing social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH) due to unidentified disabilities, learning and mental health needs.    

In her recommendations, Sarah advocates more training for teachers, and an increase in funding for health and education.  This needs to include early assessments of the barriers to learning in school and identification of underlying neurodevelopmental needs, and a structured approach to ‘managed moves’ between schools with a national recording system.  

Sarah Martin-Denham said: “Together for Children Sunderland should be commended for commissioning this research, which has given them a firm evidence base on which to move inclusive provision and practice forward. The recommendations are at both a local and national level, with a focus on reform to protect the wellbeing of children, young people and members of their households who are unable to cope for a range of factors in mainstream education”.  

Director for Education at Together for Children, Simon Marshall said: “We welcome Sarah’s findings. As with the last research we commissioned Sarah to carry out, we knew there was an issue with the impact of managed moves on children. Sarah’s recommendations aredetailed, through work and in-depth conversations with students, parents, carers and teachers. I have no doubt that similar results will be found in schools across England. For our part we plan to work with our colleagues in schools to act on this study’s recommendations.” 

Sarah added: “A managed move is an alternative to a permanent exclusion, a fresh start, but we know for many that they don’t work because their multifaceted learning and mental health needs are not always fully planned for and understood. The child has no sense of belonging, they feel rejected from their school and are anxious about being ‘on trial’ with a new school. They feel shame and under pressure, because one mistake and they are out. These children feel acutely the stigma attached to being a ‘managed move’ child. They are often struggling with social, emotional and mental health needs including dyslexia, autism and ADHD and have only 12 weeks to prove themselves worthy of a school place.  

“We found that most pupils ended up in alternative provision or returned to their original school. Most concerning was finding evidence of children placed in isolation booths compounding mental and physical health needs.  Some turned to medication or illegal drugs to ‘manage’ in mainstream schooling.”  

One of the overwhelming positives was Sunderland’s alternative educational provision reported by the children and their carers during interviews.  

Sarah explained: “All the children I interviewed are now settled in Pupil Referral Units (PRU) or alternative provision, they are happy, thriving and integrating well, as a result of smaller classes and a curriculum that meets their needs. Alternative provision in Sunderland has emerged as a real strength. Parents call it their “lifeline” and believe it has transformed their children’s mental health and home lives.”  

Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, concluded: “The findings of Sarah’s research have the potential to make a very positive impact on the mental health and learning of many children. This has been a long, involved and, at times, challenging study. Sarah has talked to children, parents, carers and teachers for whom the current approach is not working and in some cases is actually damaging. I applaud Sarah’s diligence and also congratulate Together for Children Sunderland for commissioning the study and their readiness to confront issues and make changes to improve young people’s mental health and learning.” 

Sarah Denham-Martin

What is a managed move?  

A managed move is a voluntary agreement between schools, parents/carers and a pupil, for that pupil to change school or educational programme under controlled circumstances. However, the research found the current system does not work, not least because of the widespread use of isolation booths in schools.  

Is this the first study commissioned by Together for Children Sunderland?  

This is the second research study that Together for Children Sunderland has commissioned Sarah to carry out on its behalf. The first involved the academic exploring the numbers of children with special education needs (SEN) across Sunderland and assessing whether provision was adequately and ideally located to meet their needs. 

Together for Children Sunderland has recommissioned Sarah and her team to carry out research into services to support children and families who have been exposed to domestic abuse. 

What were the report’s findings?   

There are a multitude of enablers and barriers to mainstream education that are seemingly due to unidentified education and health needs  

Isolation booths do not improve behaviour but compound mental health and learning difficulties   

Good practice exists with children’s paediatrics though wait time across other health services are a barrier to support in schools  

All managed moves do not work without a formalised transition structure, based on person-centered approaches and thorough knowledge, understanding and empathy for the child’s learning and SEMH   

The development of relationships with teachers and friends is fundamental to creating a sense of belonging within the receiving school. Barriers to this occurring are zero-tolerance systems that have a lack of leniency or reasonable adjustment  

Assessment, identification of learning and SEMH needs are core to ensure that reasonable adjustments are applied in a timely manner to support successful and ongoing integration into the new school.  

What were the study’s recommendations?   

Local training for senior leaders in education to clarify the legal position on the use of managed moves, making it explicit that they cannot be used where a child has additional needs or a disability that the school are unable to cater for:  

Training for school staff on the particular needs of children with disabilities, mental health and/or learning needs to ensure effective and timely evidence based support  

Early assessment and identification of any underlying learning and mental needs prior to planning a managed move, to ensure each and every need is planned for  

Support for caregivers and siblings who have children struggling with mainstream education  

Implementing a monitoring system alongside school exclusions data records to analyse the number of managed moves each child has attempted and the reasons for their failing/ the length of time each child attended the managed moves school 

A review of the terminology used such as ‘referral units’ and ‘alternative provision’ due to the stigma attached to these schools.   

What happens next?  

The Children’s Commission for England has welcomed the review, and the reports are also with the Department for Education Exclusions and Behavioural Insights Team.  

This study builds on last year’s Timpson Review, which made 30 recommendations to ensure school exclusions are used appropriately and the Government commits to new school accountability. There are plans to seek funding to widen the research beyond Sunderland and the north east of England, to determine whether a similar picture exists across the country.  

To access the research go to: 

Executive Summaries 

Full Reports