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

Inclusive Football is coming to the University. 2018 will see the first entry from the University into the Mixed gender County Durham FA Community and Inclusion League. Teams from around the area come together to play social football, making suitable adaptations for players with varying levels of ability or impairments. 

Games are 5-a-side, unlimited substitutions and match length will try depending on players available. Fixtures are played monthly, with no pressure to attend If you have other commitments.

Extra training will be available at the brand new, state of the art, Academy of Light facility just opposite from Sunderland FC. 

To sign up, or to find out more contact: rob.graham@sunderland.ac.uk

Return to AboutUS

The wreckage of a Scottish whaling ship has been discovered in the Canadian High Arctic by two researchers using the historical documents and newspaper clippings connected to the 19th Century Arctic whaling trade.

The Nova Zembla, which hit a reef off the east coast of Baffin Island in 1902, stands to offer significant historical insight into life in an industry that dominated Canadian waters for centuries. At least 200 British whaling ships were lost in Canada's Arctic waters but this is believed to be the first of the shipwrecks to be found.

Return to AboutUS

With just a drone, a dinghy and only an eight-hour window, Sunderland PhD graduate Matthew Ayre alongside underwater archaeologist Michael Moloney located the previously unknown wreckage — and wood from the ship's mast still strewn across a beach.

Matthew who is now a Post-Doctoral Fellow at University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America, alongside Michael, received support for the expedition from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). They made their discovery on August 31, in just eight hours using drone footage and SONAR imaging deployed on a remote-operated underwater vehicle in a targeted five-square-kilometer search area identified through months of historical research.


“We were thrilled by this discovery and it's going to tell us a lot about what life was like aboard a whaler," said Matthew, who landed his role at Calgary as a result of his research on the ARCdoc project at Sunderland analysing historical logbooks recorded by explorers, whalers and merchants during epic expeditions between 1750 and 1850. The ARCdoc project was created to increase our scientific understanding of climate change in this environmentally important region.

Michael added: “This discovery was the culmination of months of research and preparation, and we can't wait to continue working with the RCGS to further explore this site.”

“This is a previously unknown archaeological site, and the first High Arctic whaling ship ever discovered,” says John Geiger, Chief Executive Officer of the RCGS. “It is a remarkable story of historical sleuthing supported by fieldwork and adds considerably to the historical record by shedding new light on that treacherous, once great industry.”

Matthew, 30, from North Tyneside, came across details of the Nova Zembla wreck in March of this year while poring over historical documents for his climatological research at the Institute, where he is compiling baseline information on sea ice and wind conditions in the Arctic. One of the documents was the logbook of the Diana, one of two whaling vessels that rescued the crew of the Nova Zembla, and it contained clues to the whereabouts of the wreck site in the fiord. Shortly after, Matthew then found a type-written version of a diary from a sailor aboard the Diana in 1903, the year after the wreck, which explained how they returned to the wreck site to salvage some equipment, including the rudder.

“I thought, ‘Oh, the wreck is accessible,’” says Matthew. “They’ve gone back to it. They can actually see it, and they’ve taken something from it. That’s when I got interested and told Mike.”

From there, the duo began to compile newspaper records on the wreck, a first-hand account from a diary of a Nova Zembla crewmember, and other documents, cobbling together bits of information to create an extremely targeted search area for an expedition.

In August, the pair embarked on a One Ocean Expeditions voyage through the Northwest Passage and Greenland aboard the research vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov. The ship departed on August 30; the next morning at 6am, Matthew, Michael and One Ocean crew members Ted Irniq and Kelson Rounds-McPherson set out in a Zodiac, battling one-and-a-half-metre swells as they made their way toward the search area, a windblown stretch of beach near Buchan Gulf. They had only a short window of time to find evidence of the Nova Zembla.

“We knew that the beachfront was what we were targeting. That was what we had triangulated from those historical documents. Then it became your traditional sit and wait and stare at a SONAR screen for hours,” says Michael.

Armed with satellite imagery of what appeared to be the hull of a ship near the wreck site, the pair first set out to discover the nature of the intriguing shape below the water. Unfortunately, that lead turned cold. “It was a collection of rocks,” Matthew says.

However, using an ROV supplied by DeepTrekker, the team was able to obtain SONAR imagery that revealed some promising shapes, including what appears to be one of the anchors of the ship — straight lines and right angles are indicative of man-made materials, says Michael. But it was on the nearby beach that they discovered the most promising evidence of the wreck. Through binoculars aimed at the shore, Matthew spotted what looked like pieces of wood on the sand, so he deployed a drone and was amazed at what he saw on the monitor. Pieces of spars and large timbers with metal rivets were scattered across the beach. Unfortunately, their drone battery drained in just a few minutes from the cold, so Matthew could only search for a few minutes before he flew it back to the Zodiac with just seconds to spare.

“I reckon this is the cheapest and fastest shipwreck discovery in history,” says Matthew with a laugh.

The discovery of the Nova Zembla offers insight into the little-known social history of the whaling industry. There are very limited accounts of the daily lives of whalers, and particularly the sailors that plied the treacherous waters of the Arctic and contributed to the geographic understanding of the region. For centuries, whaling was an integral part of life in the Arctic and whalers interacted with and, in some cases, integrated into Inuit communities. While the relationship was not always a peaceful one, many whaling companies incorporated Inuit knowledge into their own practices, and later passed that information on to the Royal Navy during their explorations of the Arctic.

“It’s a largely untold part of the story, and with there being so much attention on wrecks like Erebus and Terror, Parks Canada has been largely focused on naval exploration. There’s really no book on whaling activity in the Canadian Arctic written from a social perspective,” says Michael.

Back home in Calgary, the pair will continue to process their SONAR and drone imagery to pinpoint more evidence of the Nova Zembla. They plan to revisit the wreck site in 2019, and hope to partner with local Inuit to conduct further research on the wreck.

“The whole goal of the expedition was to discover if there’s something there or not,” says Michael, “and now we know there’s something there.”

About the Nova Zembla

The Scottish whaling vessel Nova Zembla hit a reef near Buchan Gulf off the east coast of Baffin Bay at 10.20pm. on Thursday, September 18, 1902. Her crew was rescued by fellow whalers, the Diana and Eclipse, and it is from their logbooks that information about the events of that evening have been gleaned. Alongside newspaper testimonies from the crew on their return, these first-hand accounts place the wreck in a remote harbour on the east coast of Baffin Island, in shallow water and protected from the destructive effects of turbulent sea ice conditions. Nova Zembla, under new and novice captaincy, struck the reef while running for cover in a storm. She sank fast and the crew had little time to abandon ship. Her valuable cargo of whalebone was rescued from her stores and transferred to the Diana, which revisited the wreck the following year and salvaged her rudder.

About Matthew Ayre – ARCDoc

Michael Moloney and Matthew Ayre visited the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's headquarters at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa after the discovery. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)

Matthew Ayre, whose research at the University of Sunderland revealed the secrets of early 19th century ice fronts that were more advanced around the Arctic than they are today, now continues his work at the Arctic Institute of North America.

Matthew was offered a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Institute, based at the University of Calgary in Canada, as a result of his work on the ARCdoc research project, led by Sunderland.

ARCdoc analysed historical logbooks recorded by explorers, whalers and merchants during epic expeditions between 1750 and 1850. The project was created to increase our scientific understanding of climate change in this environmentally important region. The logbooks include famous voyages such as Parry’s polar expedition in HMS Hecla.

Some of the most significant data to emerge from the project has come from painstaking analysis of 60 logbooks belonging to whaling vessels, which contain descriptions of sea ice advancing and retreating every summer, all of which were recorded by whalers who ventured farther north than anyone else.

 For his PhD, Matthew mapped what the ice was doing during some of that 100-year period around the David Straits area, and at a time pre-dating the emergence of significant volumes of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A comparison with satellite data from the last 30 years of this area shows the summer ice was then far more advanced than it is today.

Now considered a leading expert on historical log book analysis, the 30-year-old, from North Tyneside, is continuing his research with historical logbooks as part of the Northern Seas project at the Arctic Institute.

To understand how the data relates to today’s ice cover decline, Matthew had to translate the whaler’s archaic terminology into the first ever sea ice dictionary in standard 21st Century observational vocabulary. To do this he has traced every sea ice definition in UK history from satellite data of the last three decades, to the accounts of renowned Arctic explorer, scientist and Whitby whaler William Scoresby Jnr (1789-1857). Scoresby wrote an account of the Arctic regions and also deciphered some of the log book’s terminology.

Matthew was also able to validate his data and the accuracy of his dictionary on board the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a research vessel and the US’s only operating polar ice breaker, where he spent five weeks recording what was happening to the ice.


A Global voice

From a paid internship on a local newspaper to reading the news for Europe’s largest radio company – graduate Ruth Aiken’s career is a rollercoaster ride that continues to move forward.

“You have to be so determined, knock on doors and be prepared for the rejection, but believe in yourself, work hard and always trust your gut instinct. You can do anything you set your mind to, you’ve just got to have self-belief.”

That’s the advice 33-year-old Ruth gives to anyone starting their own career in the media. Whether it’s print, radio or online she’s experienced it all, starting with her own journey as a journalism student at the University of Sunderland to reading the news for Global, the media and entertainment group, whose stations include Heart, Capital, Smooth, Classic FM, LBC and Radio X.

Return to AboutUS

After completing an English degree and working in a variety of jobs from PR to newspaper sales, Ruth decided to take the plunge and return to university to study a Masters in Journalism at Sunderland in 2008, fuelled by a passion for news.

“It was a great year,” she explained, “every lesson was so valuable and relevant, and not to mention crucial for the role, like shorthand and media law. It was intense and hard work but the support from the tutors was excellent. Ian Blackhall was a real inspiration to me, he was a fantastic tutor and he always said ‘determination was my biggest strength’. The campus was also a lovely, creative environment to work in.”

Once she graduated, Ruth, from Newcastle, immediately turned once again to the University for support from the Graduate Internship Scheme, which helped secure a six-month paid placement at The Shields Gazette.

“It was a God-send and got me my first foot in the door,” said Ruth,” everything happened so quick, it was unreal. I had a short interview with the editor and knew I had to make the most of the opportunity. You never know where things will lead and once you’re in, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to work hard to prove yourself.

“I did a lot of copy writing, interviews, shadowing reporters and gained a massive insight into print journalism. I felt prepared and confident to work in a newsroom thanks to my Masters, which had given me a good grounding, it also cemented my ambition of what I wanted to do. I must have made an impression, as they kept me on after the internship had finished and I was invited to apply for a job on the Gazette’s sister paper – The News Guardian.”

Ruth spent the next three years making her mark as a trainee reporter covering the North Tyneside area before shortly qualifying as a senior.

While she loved the work, particularly court reporting, Ruth had been harbouring a desire to work on radio, and volunteered at weekends and in her spare time at community radio stations, including Radio Tyneside.

After doing a work-experience week at Metro Radio and posting off her first news-reading demo to various stations across the North East, Ruth’s first break came when she was offered various freelance shifts at Capital, Real Radio and Star Radio.

“Looking back, I think my voice was pretty rubbish at the time,” she laughs, “but I was determined, I knew I had potential and I was so hungry for it. There were a few doubters who thought I was crazy to take the plunge and give up a secure job in print, with the offer of only a couple of months freelance work in radio because beyond that, I didn’t know what was going to happen.

 “But thankfully the risk paid off and Star Radio offered me my first full-time job as a reader. It was an amazing experience and I even ended up going to report from Afghanistan for a week.

“I had a brilliant year with Star Radio before deciding I needed my next challenge when a job came up at Metro Radio. I met up with the editor who offered me an interview for a reading position and I got it. During my time there, I also got to work with Metro Radio’s sister stations in Cumbria and Scotland, which was great.”

As Ruth gained more experience, she began to express an interest in programming, and was paired up with presenter Dan Moylan, as they discovered there was great on-air chemistry between the two. When the opportunity came to stand in for popular breakfast show presenters Steve and Karen, once again Ruth found herself in the hot-seat alongside Dan, and the pair became official breakfast cover.  

“It was crazy,” says Ruth, “I had listened to Steve and Karen since I was a student and never thought in a million years I’d end up covering their show. It was overwhelming and a massive privilege, but terrifying at the same time. I always think all of these amazing things would never have happened had I not taken a risk and left my newspaper job.

“Presenting was loads of fun and the listener interaction was great. We had massive shoes to fill but thankfully people seemed to really warm to me and Dan. It’s one of my career highlights so far for sure.”

Ruth then decided once again the time had come to move to her next challenge when she was offered a reading position at Global.

She says: “I’ve only been here two months and it’s everything I hoped and more. I’m now reading for Heart, Capital and Smooth – three absolutely massive radio brands in the North East. It’s so exciting.

“Being able to work closely with London and share my own original stories with LBC is also a massive opportunity, which I will definitely be grabbing with both hands.”

So what does the future hold for Ruth?

“Long-term I really want to get my teeth into more investigative and original pieces, develop further in news and maybe even look at a more senior position someday. I’ve still got an interest in the programming side of things and that could be something to revisit again down the line. I’m also very passionate about mentoring so you never know, I might end up teaching the next generation of media students.

“But right now, I’m just really excited about my new chapter here at Global - I will know in my gut when it’s time to mix things up!”

The Graduate Internship Scheme is a paid work experience programme offered by employers to students and graduates looking to gain relevant skills and experience in a particular field.

Nickola Gray, Employment Services Manager, said: “The Graduate Internship Scheme is a fantastic platform for graduates to take that first step on the career ladder and Ruth’s journey is a brilliant example of where your internship can take you.

“The scheme has been running at the University for nine years, supporting hundreds of graduates with their careers and SME’s with their talent management.”

The Graduate Internship Team works closely with organisations across the region and sectors to develop a range of graduate level positions covering all degree programmes. The new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) University of Sunderland SME Graduate Internship Scheme will be launching shortly.

Any graduates or organisations interested in participating please contact internships@sunderland.ac.uk.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

The project (either has received or is receiving up to) £1,182,403 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Artwork reflects sea change

A new photography artwork by a Sunderland Fine Art student on the Shields Ferry brings home the topical issue of plastics in our oceans.

Clean Up Isle Sea by photographer Jay Smith contrasts the stunning and beautiful seascapes of the  North East coast with the discarded plastics lurking just below the surface.

The images she has captured will be displayed across the windows of the Spirit of the Tyne passenger ferry, in a temporary installation this autumn.

Return to AboutUS

Jay  said: “There has been a great deal of interest around the problem of plastics in our oceans, and I hope my work makes people aware that marine pollution is not a problem that is far away, but one that is a lot closer to home.

“Clean Up Isle Sea asks people to question damage that we have done to our coastline by contrasting wide seascapes with close up images of waste becoming embedded within our environment. 

“It is time we got together to clean up and also stay on top of the problems that have been created.  I want people to go away and find out more about the issue, and what they can do to make a difference.”

Jay, who is from Stocksfield, Northumberland originally approached staff at the Shields Ferry as part of a course which encourages students to get their work displayed in public places.

This grew into a larger project which will be displayed on the Spirit of the Tyne on its half-hourly crossings between North and South Shields.

Carol Timlin, the ferry manager, said: “The Shields Ferry has been part of life at the mouth of the Tyne for hundreds of years so we are well aware of the environment we live and work in.

“Jay’s photography brings a very topical issue into real local focus; the river mouth, coastline and beaches are magnificent natural assets for our region and we need to look after them.”

The Shields Ferry is owned and operated by Nexus, the public body which provides and promotes public transport in North East England.   It has ISO 14001 Environmental Management System accreditation recognising the effort the crew makes to perform to the highest standards in terms of waste management and wider environmental impact.

Photographer Jay Smith has created this temporary art installation to highlight the issue of marine pollution along the North East coast line.  The images are transparent for people to see the work from inside and outside the Shields Ferry.

'Clean Up Isle Sea' asks you to consider the damage that we have done to our coastline. Contrasting wide seascapes with close up images of waste becoming embedded within our seas and beaches shows the environment is not always as clean as it first appears.

The images travel from South Shields to St Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay to remind us that marine pollution is not a far away problem, but close to home.  Jay hopes that her work will inspire people to think about what they can do to help – from reducing waster to helping beach clean ups.

Surfing student to the rescue

King of the waves Joe Kinghorn proved himself a super student when he helped save a struggling dog from the sea.

The 23-year-old University of Sunderland Pharmacy student had seen the animal from the window of his home close to Roker Beach at the weekend.

Joe, who is about to start his third year at the University, could see the dog was in distress as it fought to keep itself afloat about 30 meters out to sea.

Return to AboutUS

Joe, currently on a two-week placement at South Tyneside District Hospital, said: “The dog was starting to get really stressed and was just swimming around in circles.”

Surfer Joe wasted no time in grabbing his board and running down to the beach and into the water.

He said: “Normally dogs are quite scared of surfers because they don’t know what they are,” said Joe, who is a pharmacy student at Sunderland University.

“I went around the back of the dog and made it swim in the right direction to make it back to the owners who were on the shore.

“They shouted so say thank you and said the dog had got scared and ran into the water.”

Joe said: “I didn’t really do too much, I just helped the dog get to shore and I’d hope someone would do the same for a dog that I have.”

Originally from South Shields, Joe, who lives in between the piers at Roker, said he was pleased to see the dog seemed fine and was happily reunited with its owners.


The Pickle, on of Sunderland's newest bars, is offering Sunderland students 10% discount off all food and drinks.

Try a pint of Pickle Juice or Pickle Bru for £4.50

2 for £10 on cocktails

The Pickle, 17 Vine Place (opposite Priestman Building)

Return to AboutUS

Northumbria Police fraud alert

Over the past few months there have been a number of reports of Chinese students being targeted and extorted out of considerable amounts of money.

These scams take on a number of forms but the common factors are that a person speaking Chinese contacts the victim and purports to be an official (customs officer, immigration officer, embassy/consulate official, Police Officer, Prosecutor). The ‘official’ then suggests that the victim has been involved in a criminal act and then demands that monies be paid to avoid arrest or prosecution.

Variations of the scam include (but are not exclusive to) the following methods:

  • Persuading the victim to ‘stage’ a kidnap scenario in order that relatives can be contacted to pay a ransom.
  • Victim is contacted by a supposed courier company stating that the victim has sent a package which has been received in China. The victim is then told to phone a number which is then answered by a ‘Police Officer’ who accuses the victim of being involved in criminal activity and then demands money.
  • Victims are often asked to provide passport and personal details including bank account information.
  • Victims are sometimes asked to download a messenger app which is used to communicate with the fraudsters.

The persons or groups carrying out these frauds are often very persuasive and appear to be very plausible. If you receive an unsolicited phone call or email:

  • Do not provide any personal or banking information
  • Do not transfer any money
  • If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a person then contact the Police

Northumbria Police non-emergency number - 101

Northumbria Police emergency number - 999

Campus Police Officer (PC 8964 Miller) - 07736464096

Newcastle University Security - 0191 2086817

Return to AboutUS



The debate surrounding Serena William’s code violations during the US Open final at the weekend has now spread well beyond the tennis world.

Was she a victim of sexism? Would a male player have been similarly punished? Or was she simply a player on the verge of losing a Grand Slam who lost her temper?

Serena, generally considered the greatest female tennis player of all time, has now been fined $17,000 (£13,100) for the code violations that included calling the umpire a "liar" and "thief" during the match.

Return to AboutUS

Williams, beaten by Naomi Osaka, was docked a game for verbal abuse and had a point penalty for racquet smashing and a code violation for coaching.

She later said it was "sexist" to have been penalised a game.

But her comments have prompted debate within, and beyond the tennis world. While some have praised the player for exposing what they view as a long-standing double standard, others have accused her of wrongly labelling the incident as sexist.

Dr Paul Davis, from the University of Sunderland is a senior lecturer in the Sociology of Sport and has written several papers on sporting ethics. Here he calls for calm in the debate before we jump on the pro/anti Serena bandwagon.

Dr Davis said: “Billie-Jean King latches onto a broad truth when she says that whereas ‘emotional’ behaviour in a male tennis player might be described as ‘outspoken’, the same behaviour in a female player is penalised and decried as ‘hysterical’.

“King is incorrect that male players suffer no repercussions - male players have been penalised for on-court outbursts - and is also too categorical in implying that emotional male conduct never draws negative descriptions – tennis legend John McEnroe suffered both fines and vociferous criticism for his volatile behaviour.

“It is also true that tennis in general, like sport and society in general, is marked by a broader sexism that often disadvantages women and girls, the fact that Saturday’s US Open Women’s Final was the best of three sets and the male equivalent the best of five might be an example.

“However, it is nevertheless premature to conclude that Serena Williams was the victim of sexism on Saturday night. We need to be mindful of the fact that player penalties are finally the decision of the individual umpire presiding over the match.

“We therefore need to ask whether Williams’ umpire, Ramos, has been faced with male player behaviour equivalent to that of Williams’ on Saturday, and how he has reacted if so. If he has faced such behaviour from a male on court and has reacted with more leniency than he showed Williams, then suspicions of sexism towards Williams seem well-grounded, albeit there could yet be other explanations for the imbalance. If he has never faced male behaviour equivalent to that of Williams’, then we lack the data we need to investigate whether Serena Williams was, in the precise context of Saturday night, a victim of sexism.”

Williams' claims of sexism in the US Open final have been backed by the governing body of women's tennis. WTA chief executive Steve Simon said the umpire showed Williams a different level of tolerance over Saturday's outbursts than if she had been a man. However, Dr Davis, again, would say that Simon is not entitled to that claim without detailed knowledge of Ramos’ umpiring history. No one, it seems, has so far come forward with compelling evidence that Ramos treats male and female players differently. 

Dr Davis added: “We do know that Ramos has given code violations in the past two years to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, so he is not unwilling to give code violations to male players. Williams claimed that Ramos had never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’, which suggests she is sure a male player has called Ramos a thief (as she did), but again, we need to know if this is the case and how Ramos reacted if so.

“Similarly, even if Marion Bartoli is right that male players have got away with ‘ten times worse’ in their comments to umpires, that won’t establish sexism towards Williams on Saturday. We would need to know in addition whether Ramos has faced ten times worse from male players - even if it is hard to know what is ten times worse than calling someone a liar and a thief, and, again, how he has reacted if so.

“Those eager to leap to the partisan comforts of ‘Sexism!’ or ‘Stop whingeing, Serena!’ would be well-advised to temper their fever, consider the issue with some calm, wait for whatever evidence we can get and be prepared for any conclusion - including ‘we don’t really know’.”

Lead role for Dean

Dr Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, has recently been named the regional leader for #WomenEd.

#WomenEd is a grassroots movement for aspiring and existing women leaders across the education sector, from nurseries to universities. Its mission is to connect, support and empower women educators as they progress in their leadership journey. As a voluntary organisation with over 60 UK and International team leaders, the organisation aims to support women close to where they live and work.  

Return to AboutUS

Dr McKenna said: "I am really proud to be involved in this inspirational organisation and I'm looking forward to supporting the next generation of women leaders in education."

Since joining #WomenEd Dr Lynne McKenna has enabled the delivery of five coaching sessions across the Northern region, in South-Shields, Whitby, Cumbria, Whitley Bay and Middlesbrough, in response to members identifying a need for coaching for women in education at their February 2018 meeting. The well-received sessions, delivered by Dr Kim Gilligan, Learning and Teaching Lead for the Faculty of Education and Society, have built upon the School of Education's reputation for delivering high quality continuous professional development opportunities at Masters level.

Sage Education is publishing the first #WomenEd book ‘10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education’ which will call for change in what is a feminised workforce - enabling more women leaders, especially in secondary schools, colleges and universities, reducing the gender pay gap and calling for women's successes and abilities to be valued and supported. 

#WomenEd began in May 2015 on Twitter and now has over 21,000 followers, the organisation was included in The Times Education Supplement's top ten education influencers of the year in December 2017.

From the Stock Exchange to the London Eye, hundreds of students have been getting a first-hand taste of life in the Big Smoke.

Young entrepreneurs found themselves suddenly pitching ideas to Big Business, while budding artists were behind the scenes at the heart of the city’s theatres and museums.

It was all in a bid to create a cross-campus project between the University of Sunderland and its London campus.

Return to AboutUS

Called the Student Mobility Project, the scheme aimed to connect the two campuses while at the same time offering unique, life-changing opportunities.

The University of Sunderland London Campus is situated in one of the world’s most business orientated and financially importantly areas – Canary Wharf. The campus can accommodate up to 3,000 students and offers programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The Student Mobility Project is a unique chance to create ‘life-changing’ opportunities for Sunderland-based students, helping to enhance their employability by seeing them gain hands-on experience in the Capital. 

The project saw over 200 students and staff from Sunderland spending two weeks in London during August 2017 – with 500 more taking part this year.

Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism students enjoyed a range of high-level company visits, giving them real insight into the business world. This included hands-on experience of pitching business ideas at the London Stock Exchange.

While Tourism students saw first-hand many of the sites and attractions that they have studied and were given an ‘insider’ guide to the capital by the London Travel and Tourism Society.

Students from the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries got the chance to use the city as the backdrop for sketching tours, gallery visits and behind-the-scenes visits to theatres and design agencies - unique experiences that will make their postgraduate CVs stand out to future employers.  


Ruth Wilson, Head of Services for Students and Marketing, who led the project in London, said: “It was a real thrill for me to host so many colleagues from Sunderland here in London.

“Being from the North East and now based in Canary Wharf it’s always a pleasure to be able to showcase the London offer to colleagues and students from Sunderland. I look forward to Phase 2 of the project and being able to welcome more staff and students in the next year.”

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, said: “The University of Sunderland has a unique opportunity, through our satellite campus locations in London and Hong Kong and multiple international partnerships to give students a truly global experience.

“The mobility programme has proven itself as an initiative which challenges students with exciting activities in fantastic locations. Taking students into a new zone really builds their confidence in dealing with new environments and inspires them to perform highly in their studies and in preparation for their careers ahead. We believe that these things can be life-changing.”

New head of School of Medicine

Professor Scott Wilkes will head up the University of Sunderland’s new School of Medicine when it opens in September 2019.

A Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at the University and part-time GP in North Tyneside, Professor Wilkes will oversee the new School’s teaching, research and engagement with NHS partners - building on Sunderland’s already strong partnerships in health related disciplines.

Return to AboutUS

Sunderland is one of only five new medical schools to be announced in the UK - established to address the regional imbalance of medical education places across England and to widen access to ensure the profession reflects the communities it serves. The University is collaborating with its health partners to address the chronic shortage of doctors in the North East.

The University has an outstanding reputation for delivering clinical education, spanning almost 100 years, including pharmacy, nursing, paramedic practice and biomedical science. Trainee doctors will specialise as they choose, though it’s anticipated a large proportion will graduate into General Practice or Psychiatry, complementing existing medical provision in the region and adding to the diversity of medical schools in the UK.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Michael Young commented: “Scott’s impressive achievements over his 30 plus year career made him the ideal candidate to lead our School of Medicine and deliver outstanding teaching and research that will have a real impact on the region’s health and wellbeing. As the first in his family to go to university Scott is an excellent advocate for our widening participation approach, which is to attract students with the right skills and talents to become doctors but who had not previously considered studying medicine.”

On taking up the post, Professor Wilkes said: “I’m honoured and thrilled to lead the School of Medicine. I have every confidence that the School will build on Sunderland’s existing strengths to deliver the clinical training necessary to support the highest quality of health care”.

“I’m also proud to be working alongside an incredibly talented and dedicated group of colleagues, in Sunderland and the wider region and with our partners at Keele University Medical School. Our programme will incorporate multi-professional learning and extensive exposure to simulated clinical settings through our own simulation suites in the Living Lab.”

Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trusts, said: “I’d like to congratulate Scott on his new role and look forward to working alongside him and the team in the future to develop our next generation of doctors and specialists. The medical school is a great boost for the city and the region and we are delighted to see the work that we have undertaken with the University finally come to fruition. City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside are renowned for our high standard of junior doctor training and we very much look forward to welcoming students from the new medical school in the years to come.”


More about Professor Scott Wilkes

Professor Scott Wilkes has spent over 10 years leading the Primary Care Specialty Group for the NIHR Clinical Research Network, North East and North Cumbria, is a member of the Society for Academic Primary Care (SAPC) and past chair the NIHR Yorkshire and North East Research for Patient Benefit Panel.

Academically Scott also has a proven track-record with more than 15 years’ experience as an NHS researcher, working on the Northumberland Local Research Ethics Committee, the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, serving as a non-Exec Director of the Academic Health Science Network, North East and North Cumbria and delivering a number of BMJ masterclass lectures throughout the UK.

“…you always have to fight for what you want..”

Here Prof Wilkes talks about his own journey to becoming a GP, his hopes for the future of medical education and his vision for the School of Medicine.

Why did you become a General Practitioner (GP)?

I was the first in my family to go to University, let alone into medicine.

I come from a mining background, but my father broke the mould when he began running his own fruit and vegetable business in Northumberland. I was inspired by his independence, drive and business acumen, as well as for chasing his dream.

My interest in healthcare stems from my experience as a patient and how my own GP helped solve my minor medical problems and I just thought ‘wow what a fantastic gift that person has got’. It was role modelling outside the family unit.

It gave me confidence and sparked a curiosity and drive to study medicine. I wasn’t pressurised into it from a privileged sector of society or by a motivated parent. My parents’ attitude was “well ‘if that’s what you want to do good luck”…

The only pressure I faced was from myself as I wanted it so much. Although I suspect my dad saw me taking over the family business at the time!

What route did you take to becoming a GP?

I studied medicine at Leeds University and enjoyed everything. Despite always being interested in ophthalmology I somehow managed to win the Orthopaedic Prize at university that led to a student elective in Canada, attached to an orthopaedic surgeon, and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Having done well at University I decided orthopaedics was going to be my career, but quickly discovered this was not what I wanted. I felt I needed more balance and variety in my life so then looked towards becoming a GP.

However, I’d missed the application deadline for the GP training scheme so had to work towards the role the hard way, studying various disciplines for several years then going through six individual interviews every six months. In effect I put my own career together, but you always have to fight for what you want.

I eventually became a GP, and after seven years in Leeds, my wife and I decided to head back to the North East where I became a GP Principal at Coquet Medical Group in 1994 and was a partner there right up until 2017.

What is the best part about being a GP?

When the door closes and the patient sits down that patient then knows that everything that happens is private and confidential. It’s a very trusted space and being able to help that person find a solution that allows them to get on with their life is just incredibly rewarding.

You also never know what’s coming through your door and I thoroughly enjoy knowing a little bit about an awful lot! It’s the opposite to being a specialist who knows a lot about a very focused area.

How did you get involved in academia?

I had been a GP for about nine years and became highly inquisitive around the evidence of what we did. I started to question the work that I did.

You can’t possibly research everything in General Practice but there were some things that were taxing me at the time, especially around the quality of service that infertile couples got from their GP and concerns over misdirected referrals. I needed to find a home for my research. At the time Sunderland had a Professor of General Practice, Professor Greg Rubin, and I knew it to be a very ‘can do’ institution, that philosophy still pervades today. It’s an institution which helps people achieve their goals in life and I found a home for my own questions which led to my PhD.

I spent five years developing then leading the National Institute for Health Research Comprehensive Clinical Research Network GP infrastructure in Northumberland, Tyne and wear, before chairing the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Committee for five years.

Conversations back with Sunderland about the opportunities for health research relating to general practice and pharmacy in the university with Professor Alabaster eventually led to my appointment as the Professor of General Practice and Primary Care in 2013, with a specific remit to assist our School of Pharmacy’s research capacity. At the same time I created a virtual postgraduate department with GPs in training. So we’ve now got three GPs doing their Masters and two doing their PhDs.

Why the need for a School of Medicine at Sunderland?

A School of Medicine was not on our radar - despite us winning a number of health research grants - then in 2016 the Department of Health (DH) wrote to Vice Chancellors asking for their thoughts on the capacity in their institutions for modernising medical education in the UK. We got round the table and decide ‘yes’, we do have the capacity, so the process started.

When myself and Professor Tony Alabaster appeared before the GMC in February 2017 our vision for a university full of bio-medical science front-ending the medical school was warmly received, backed up with evidence from the people who could deliver our vision.

We went out to the region to gauge the interest of all our NHS partners and clinicians – and we were deluged with a tidal wave of support for this new venture.

The next step was a DH consultation asking all hospital trusts and universities for their views on what was amiss with medical education and how it could be improved. Out of that consultation came a set of big hitting metrics very closely aligned to our own – around coastal regeneration, widening participation, social mobility, shortage of medical specialties especially general practice and psychiatry and so on.

As the new Head of the School of Medicine – what are your plans?

Our current focus is on recruiting the right students. One of our defining characteristics is around Widening Participation (WP) – which means finding those academically successful students who have the talent but have not had the opportunity to study medicine, due to socio-economic barriers.

We want to demonstrate how to break those entry metrics, which can be attributed to economic advantage. Our admissions process is open nationally and we are getting applications from across the country. We’re also coaching potential applicants who are socio-economically disadvantaged on how to complete the forms, perform in a mini-medical interview, what professionalism is all about, how to demonstrate their drive and social and leadership skills.

Our coaching means they are competing on a level playing field with others students. That cohort will be fast tracked to a mini-medical interview. We are a small medical school, but will have a significant tutor infrastructure that will care and look after its students.

There will be a lot of role modelling and championing going on. Our students will have a lot of professional contact and support. It is a general practice-heavy curriculum with a lot of GP educators delivering the programme. 

In addition our students will benefit from our state-of-the-art clinical simulation equipment, and some of the best educational clinical partners in terms of GPs and hospital trusts in the region.

What makes the School of Medicine unique at Sunderland?

We are a socially responsible medical school. We are a medical school that is led by a General Practitioner, and there are approximately only four other medical schools in the UK, that do this.

As part of the conditions to open a new medical school we must partner with an existing school, and we chose Keele University School of Medicine due to its similar demographic and recruitment of students from a WP background. Keele has successfully been delivering its medical programme for 15 years; they were ranked fourth in the Guardian University League Tables 2017 for Medicine and have been awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework. The partnership is extremely strong.

At Sunderland, our students will experience inter-professional learning in its truest sense. We have partnerships with four hospital trusts, two mental health trusts, community services and 63 GP practices.

In addition trainee doctors will be taught and practice clinical scenarios alongside our student nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics just as they would in the real world. It’s crucial they understand the skill-sets these other professionals who work alongside them possess. You always work as a team in the NHS, you can’t do it on your own.

Why the focus on General Practice and Psychiatry?

We will have a focus on generalism, which is all about treating the ageing population, who have multiple health problems, take lots of pills, are obese, have hypertension or diabetes – these are the majority of patients who are looked after in the community by a generalist, and should never enter the doors of A&E. But because we haven’t invested in the GP infrastructure, too many patients are going straight to A&E, which as we know is straining to cope. We also know that there is a drive from the hospital sector to try and put a much bigger effort into generalism to cope with the changing population demographic.

Today psychiatry also plays a big part in generalism in General Practice, where it’s not just about physical health, but social and mental health. We are seeing a lot of patients with anxiety, stress and depression in General Practice, much of which is rooted in the way we live, so we have to understand how all this links in and belongs within the GP setting. General practice is all about listening to patients and dealing with their agenda.

For anxiety, stress and depression among other things, talking therapies are the number one intervention, these are intensive interventions, but General Practice can have a big impact. Psychiatry will play a big part of our curriculum, and we are lucky as Sunderland already has a well-established School of Psychology, which will link in with our programme and support the delivery of our educational content over the next five years.

Despite the ‘crisis’ in the NHS, why should you still consider a career in medicine?

Medicine is a great career. It’s a career which allows you to follow many different jobs, there are approximately 30 specialties, from working in a lab as a pathologist, to becoming a hospital doctor to the GP setting, perhaps even teaching in a university like ours.

It’s one of those jobs where you never stop learning, so it’s always interesting and keeps you on your toes.

It’s also an ever-changing job with medical advances. Most importantly, it’s the most rewarding job you can do - helping other people to achieve better health.

If you are a new student you may be entitled to our Get There Scholarship - which allows you to unlimited travel across Tyne & Wear until September 2019.  

The Scholarship entitles you to free travel across Tyne and Wear for a year, or an accommodation discount on University-managed accommodation (including The Forge U Student Village) and is open to full-time Home and EU undergraduates.

To find out more click here.

Contact the Scholarships Team – scholarships@sunderland.ac.uk / 0191 515 2865

Return to AboutUS

The business of transformation

Within just five days a group of international students have been on a life-changing educational journey with our University to master their business skills.  

Dr Derek Watson spent the week at one of Sunderland’s global partner centres, SEGi College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, coaching 20 students as part of their Master of Business Administration (MBA) course.

The five-day programme, an integral part of their degree, provided research informed teaching with commercially connected insights, using live examples designed to create a rich learning environment for the students.

Feedback has been highly positive and images Dr Watson took of the group at the beginning of the week contrasted to the end of the programme, he says have demonstrated their transformation into business professionals.

Return to AboutUS

“It was great to see how their approach to the programme developed by the end of the week and how engaged and motivated they became,” explained Dr Watson, the postgraduate Module Leader for Innovation and Technology Transfer and both Director of Studies and co-supervisor on the Universities Doctoral programmes.

“This is a key example of our University using researched informed teaching, and commercially live examples, within a five-day programme, to really raise standards, not just in the students’ knowledge and skills but in their presentation and commercial insight.

“It’s really given them a clear insight into employability, research informed teaching and personal growth.”

The MBA (Marketing) is an internationally respected business qualification developing a strategic understanding of all aspects of managing a successful business in one year. There is a specific focus on marketing, allowing students to specialise in the marketing aspects of senior management.

The current cohort of MBA students at SEGi in Malaysia hail from across the world including Afghanistan, the Maldives, Jordan, Sudan and China.

Hadhami Talbi said: “This programme was inspirational and stimulated my self-confidence and boosted me to dream big and be more attentive to what is currently happening in the global market and my future career path.”

Shuake San said: “Derek helped open our eyes to global challenges and solutions, his unique teaching methods and practical discussion has provided us with much needs employability skills and self-confidence.”

Tan Hong Qi added: “During this week, I not only learned about organisational development and change, I also learned a lot about the workplace, and some feelings about life.”

The programme is an integral part of their MBA programme, in which they produced an assessment at the end of the week, based on a live business case study.

For more information on the MBA programme click here.

For more information on Dr Derek Watson click here.

Region ready for its close-up

Two entrepreneurs who met thousands of miles away from the North East have been tasked with showcasing the region in a bid to attract investment and jobs.

University of Sunderland graduate Mark Stuart Bell and business partner Glen Colledge are set to produce six short films in a bid to provide a boost to the region’s fortunes,

The pair – who together make up Second Draft video production company - have won two contracts to help boost investment, business and jobs in the North East.

Return to AboutUS

The first is with Invest North East England - producing six videos to attract people to the region, while the second is with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) making a showcase film about the £270m Local Growth Fund they have been investing in the region.

It’s a major step for the fledgling business which has recently moved from the Enterprise Place at the University’s Hope Street Xchange building into new offices at Sunderland’s Business and Innovation Centre.

Mark, 32, said: “We are aiming to bring our own unique style to these films, something which really connects with the audiences and shows what an incredible place the North East is.”

Mark and Glen, 26, first connected when they met 8,000 miles away on the Falkland Islands.

Mark, who studied for a MA in Journalism at the University, was researching a documentary and needed a collaborator and a guide. Glen, at the time, was a cameraman and editor on the Island’s TV station.

Six months later the filmmakers were working together back in the UK, before taking the big step into starting up their new business.

And it’s been a whirlwind few months for the pair. They have worked with businesses across the region creating corporate films with what they call “the human touch”.

It was that touch that won the company praise for their official video to accompany Sunderland’s City of Culture Bid 2021.

Glen said: “We hope our videos create something different, that we bring our own style to them. We hope they connect with the audience in a unique way.”

The pair say they are delighted with the new challenge which is now in front of them.

Mark added: “It’s a big responsibility to showcase the North East, particularly when the aim is to attract investment and create jobs. It’s going to be a busy few months for us as we get all the filming done.

“There are sometimes a lot of misconceptions about the region and we hope these films help change people’s perceptions.”

The pair are now looking towards the future and have big plans for Second Draft, hoping that their early success continues as the business goes from strength to strength.”

The Enterprise Place is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and available to all students and alumni of the University of Sunderland. The Enterprise Place offers office space and facilities, start-up and growth courses, and specialist advisers offering support and guidance all aimed at helping people turn a business idea into reality.

Glen added: “The support we received from the Enterprise Place was fantastic, it gave us the foundation we needed as we were starting out on our venture.”

Fifty women … a celebration

Women aged 18 to 91 have bared their breasts as part of an exhibition which shines a spotlight on the politics of body image and objectification of the female form.

Fifty Women is a thought-provoking exhibition by North East artist Donna Barkess featuring Polaroid images of breasts and the diverse stories behind them, from surgery, breast feeding, objectification and body image, to sexism and sexuality.

A preview evening of the exhibition takes place on Thursday September 6, 6pm-8pm, at the University of Sunderland’s Priestman Gallery, where Donna is a senior lecturer in graphic design and illustration. The exhibition then opens to the public from September 6-19.

Return to AboutUS

The feminist focus behind the images aims to highlight how, despite the many changes in equality in the past century, women are still stigmatised within society and often feel a sense of uncertainty surrounding their own social and personal identity.

“Material found on social media, in advertising, films, programmes, books and magazines, even song lyrics, suggest that we have a long way to go before women are finally free of destructive and damaging gender stereotyping, stigma and objectification,” explains Donna.

“There is something very messed up about how we see our own bodies and I think women need to own them again. This exhibition is about supporting all women and making them feel better about their bodies.”

To reinforce the message behind the exhibition on how society views the female form, Donna revealed how she has had to censor a version of a poster promoting Fifty Women for Facebook and Instagram, after the social media organisations removed her original image, which they deemed unsuitable content.

She says: “Breasts have been a political issue for centuries. Within society, they have been sexualised, objectified, and demonised. Breasts are the mainstay of pornographic material, yet they have been portrayed for centuries as a symbol of compassion and motherhood in religious paintings and writings.

“Even now, in the 21st century, debates still rage over whether it is acceptable for mothers to feed their babies in public, whilst we are surrounded by objectified images of women's breasts. The fact that women have a legal and moral right to feed their babies in public without prejudice or challenge seems to be irrelevant to a proportion of society.  Yet this is just part of a bigger picture and the stigmatisation, objectification and sense of ownership of women’s bodies. 

“Conversations with the 50 women I spoke to frequently highlighted a sense of confusion or frustration in terms of the ‘ownership’ of their bodies. They experience pressures, conflicts, influences and changes throughout their lives that create a lack of clarity in terms of how they, and others, view their body and their ownership of it.”

The subject of each Polaroid has their head cropped from the images, accompanied by a statement, ensuring a degree of anonymity for each woman, who all volunteered for the project.

Donna says: “The images are not high resolution and there is something less intrusive about a Polaroid image which helps the subjects feel more comfortable.”

She added: “I was privileged to be able to talk to these 50 women about their breasts, they responded with warmth, confidence and humour. Some were photographed on a one-to-one basis, but we also had some 'open house' sessions with constant soup, cakes and tea, where ladies would call in and socialise, eat and chat about the project before being photographed. It created an atmosphere where the women felt comfortable was really important.

“There was a real sense of mutual respect, camaraderie and celebration, which facilitated some very honest discussions that became the basis of many individual statements.”

Fifty Women will be held at The Priestman Gallery, Priestman Building, Green Terrace, Sunderland SR1 3PZ, September 6-19.

Case studies

We spoke to a few of the ladies who have taken part in Donna Barkess’ exhibition.

Age 91:

I am 91 years old and support Donna’s project wholeheartedly. I have had ‘fallen’ breasts since my third child fifty-five years ago, but I have never felt self-conscious or aware of how they look. My breasts are very large and quite heavy, but they are just part of my body and I am happy with them.

At my age I have seen a lot of changes in the way that people think about breasts, but they are the same now as they were then. I told Donna to tell all of the other ladies that my breasts were the best.

Age: 76

When I had my first child in 1963. I was just 19 years old. The thing that strikes me now is that is seemed a given that you would bottle feed. I tried to breast feed but felt that I wasn’t really supported. I found it very difficult and was advised to switch to bottle feeding. There seemed to be a view that bottle feeding was best for the baby in terms of putting on weight. I don’t really remember many women breast feeding at the baby clinic, in fact I can remember only one lady who was breastfeeding, who had just had her seventh child. 

I think because I was so young, I just responded to the advice I was given. Also, it wasn’t very acceptable to breast feed in public. It just seemed that bottle feeding was the thing to do. I remember there was National Health milk which you were given for free, but I switched to SMA, as it seemed like better milk. 

If I had known what I know now, I would have a completely different attitude, as I now feel I was deprived of a fair chance to breastfeed. I feel I missed out on feeding my babies naturally. I suppose it was the time in my life when I thought about my breasts the most. Well, apart from the time when I was working for Marks & Spencer in the 1980’s and I trapped my left nipple when I closed the till. I was thinking about my breasts then.

Age 24:

Breasts have become a commodity; an intrinsic part of the female anatomy stolen by a society that sees it fit to strip women of their bodily autonomy whilst simultaneously profiting from it. Breasts have fallen victim to hyper-sexualisation and criminalisation whereby their fundamental purpose as an organ seems to have been forgotten in the place of satisfying a male audience. Above this is the judgement, expectation and ridicule that comes with having a pair of breasts. From being young girls our breasts are held up for comparison and criticism, be they too big, small, saggy or wonky, yet to even propose that there is an ‘ideal’ breast size or shape is beyond ludicrous. However, when the only breasts we are regularly exposed to are those which fit this socially accepted mould it is no wonder that the task of loving and embracing ones own breasts seems to elude a large proportion of women. It is within this climate that projects such as this are so important. It is defiant in its refusal to accept socially constructed standards and exposes people to reality of breasts and the strength they symbolise. This project gathers women of all shapes, sizes and ages and celebrates their infinite diversity without sexualisation or objectification. Each image represents a different life and a different experience of womanhood, yet what binds them all together is the power of women reclaiming ownership of their own bodies and disregarding the status quo.