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A plaque commemorating Sunderland’s first woman MP, Marion Phillips, will be unveiled in the city centre this September.

Yet, little is known about the Labour Party politician who held her seat in the city between 1929 and 1931.

A feminist of her time, she campaigned tirelessly to educate women, urging them to stand up for their rights and take part in political and social reforms.

Here, Dr Sarah Hellawell, Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Sunderland who has campaigned for the commemoration for Phillips, reveals the MP’s tireless work and explains why she is deserving of a Blue Heritage plaque.

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Dr Sarah Hellawell

During the last 18 months, I have been busy delivering a number of public talks as part of the Suffrage Centenary commemorations.

I was left surprised that so few people have actually heard of Sunderland’s first female MP, Marion Phillips.

Because of this, I have delved a little deeper into the archival sources of this interesting politician and her work in the North East.

One of the outcomes of this research is the forthcoming installation of a Blue Heritage plaque at the site of the Sunderland Labour Party’s former offices at 18 Foyle Street, in the city centre.

Recently, there have been various efforts to commemorate the generation of first women MPs, such as the Astor100 project and plaque to Margaret Wintringham in Louth.

I do hope that Phillips’ plaque in Sunderland will help to rectify the dearth of public memorials to women.

So, who was Marion Phillips and why is she deserving of this commemoration?

Born in Australia, Phillips moved to the UK in 1904.

She graduated from London School of Economics then worked on the Royal Commission into the Poor Laws, becoming closely aligned to the British Labour movement.

In 1911 she assumed leadership of the Women’s Labour League and the editorship of the League Leaflet, which was later renamed Labour Woman. She was secretary of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women’s Organisations and worked with the international network of Labour and Socialist women.

During the Great War, she was appointed to a number of significant bodies, including the Reconstruction Committee. In 1918, Phillips became the Labour Party’s first Chief Woman Officer, a role she retained until her death.

So, why was this prominent figure in the labour and women’s movements selected as a parliamentary candidate for Sunderland of all places?

As Chief Woman Officer, Phillips travelled the country and was a regular visitor to the North-East for the women’s rally held in Durham.

At the time, Sunderland was a difficult seat for Labour. Despite a large working-class population, there was a growing middle-class and the seat was held by the Conservatives.

Despite her position with the party, Phillips had not intended to seek membership to the House of Commons. Yet, compelled by her work with the Durham County Labour Women’s Advisory Council, she accepted the nomination as the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Sunderland.

Her work with the Women’s Committee for the Relief of Miners’ Wives and Children during the General Strike brought her into close collaboration with the women of the Durham coalfield.

In July 1926, Phillips visited the Ryhope Miners’ Hall in Sunderland. She donated a christening gown and shawl to an impoverished mining family who were expecting a baby. In turn, the Barnes family christened their daughter Marion Phillips Barnes.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Marion Phillips’ namesake, who is now 93 years old and still living in Sunderland.

This example is one of many acts of kindness that earned the Chief Woman Officer a positive reputation within the North-East.

In 1926, the Durham County Labour Women’s Advisory Committee asked her to stand as one of Sunderland’s Labour candidates and donated £70 to her campaign.

At that time, Sunderland was still a two-member borough. Alf Smith had the financial backing of the party and trade unions. Notably, the next General Election was held after the Equal Franchise Act. The 1929 general election would be the first time men and women had equal voting rights.

In July 1928 Phillips sent a letter to all women in the constituency, stating that ‘For women especially, this next general election which will take place in 1929 is very important’.

On 30 May 1929, Phillips was elected with 31,794 votes. Alf Smith was also elected.

As an MP, Phillips campaigned on issues relating to the interests of the working people of Sunderland, including paid holidays, unemployment schemes and training for women workers.

However, her tenure as MP was short. Phillips – along with all other Labour women MPs – lost her seat at the General Election in October 1931.

Phillips died just three months later, following a short battle with stomach cancer. Obituaries paying testament to her life’s work poured in.

Ellen Wilkinson described her as ‘one of the best all-round women MPs we have yet had’. E. Stewart from Sunderland wrote that ‘by her death, Sunderland has lost a figure that will go down in history as its first woman member of Parliament’.

This September, 90 years after her election, Marion Phillips will be commemorated by a Blue Heritage plaque in Sunderland.  The plaque has been funded by the Sunderland University Gender Studies Network.

The plaque will be unveiled at 18 Foyle Street in Sunderland, once the Labour Party Committee Rooms for the city, at 3pm on Friday, September 13. More information on the event is available here.


She’d not long received her basic life support training when University of Sunderland student Rachel Rose had to swing into action to save a little girl from dying.

And her skills were dramatically put to the test when she was on holiday with her family in Alcudia, Majorca, when she found herself in the middle of a medical emergency.

Five-year-old Kylie Ann Stewart slipped into unconsciousness on the floor of a hotel complex and Sunderland University student Rachel didn’t think twice when she launched into saving her life.

And now she has been nominated by the university she attends for a prestigious Chronicle Champions Award in the Outstanding Act of Bravery category.

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Rachel, 37, a first year student studying adult nursing at the University, said: “This is what I am training for so I did what I had to do.

"The little girl has done the hard work by getting well again. She is a little battler and she is well enough to go back to school in September.

"It was good that I just had the training so I could use it but I don't see myself as a hero."

Simone Bedford, team leader for Post-Grad Nursing at the University of Sunderland, said: “Rachel is an inspiration to all student nurses, we are very proud of her actions, she has clearly demonstrated the 6C’s of nursing, those being Care, Compassion, Competence, Commitment, Communication and most importantly, Courage.”

Rachel added: “I didn’t think, I just knew I had to do something.

“I felt for her pulse but there was nothing there; there was no breath either and her chest wasn’t moving.

“I knew I had to start CPR straight away, my mind was racing, all I could think about was how young she was.

“For four minutes I kept going but there was nothing, no signs of life at all. But all the training had told us to keep going, so that’s what I did.

“Then, in the fifth minute she came round, she was just about breathing, then she started moving her eyes a little. I put her straight into the recovery position, I couldn’t believe it.”

In the days prior her heroics, Rachel had been enjoying a one-week sunshine break with her sister, Natalie Cooper, as well as children Connor, 17, and Caitlin, 15, and mum, Denise Rose.

Three days into their stay, on a Saturday night, Rachel had finished her evening meal and was heading towards the entertainment area when Catherine Stewart, 37, came running past, cradling daughter Kylie Ann in her arms.

Rachel, of Hartlepool, said: “I could see she was very upset and frightened so I followed after her into the complex reception where she started asking for help.”

Catherine, of Donegal, Ireland, had been at the resort with her four children, including Kylie Ann, and husband Jonathan Stewart, 36.

She recalls: “I was just screaming for help, asking for them to call an ambulance. I was terrified but no one seemed able to help.

“Then suddenly, Rachel seemed to appear out of nowhere and took over, performing CPR.

“It was all a bit of a blur but there is no doubt that she saved my daughter’s life.

“Kylie Ann is the centre of our family and I cannot bear the thought of what might have happened if we’d lost her.”

Postgraduate Open Day

Wednesday 4 September, 5.30pm-8pm, CitySpace, City Campus

If you're looking for the next step after your undergraduate degree, looking to change career, or even expand the career you are already in, why not come along to our Postgraduate Open Day to see what the University of Sunderland has to offer.

You will be able to speak to academics about the course you are interested in, take a tour of the facilities both campuses offer, attend a talk on postgraduate funding and have a look round our accommodation.

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A documentary about two infamous city nightclubs will form part of this year’s Welcome Week for new students.

The film is the result of months of work from University Digital Film Production graduates Rob Kilburn and Lewis Dodds.

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The pair decided to document the history of Sunderland’s Blue Monkey and New Monkey venues, which were as controversial as they were popular.

Both venues are now closed but the impact of the clubs, their music, and their reputation on cultural life in the city remains relevant today.

The film, Two Monkeys, will be screened at the University cinema at St Peter’s Media Centre on Wednesday, September 18, at 6.30pm.

Rob, 25, from Seaburn in Sunderland, said: “This turned out to be quite a complex project but we are delighted with the result and have had some really positive feedback.

“The film has had more than 50,000 views online and we are looking forward to the screening at the University next month.”

While Rob was much younger at the peak of the clubs’ popularity, he still remembers the impact and reputation they had on young people growing up in Sunderland.

He said: “They were the most talked about places; they reached beyond being just nightclubs. The music they were playing was quite wide-reaching.”

The venues highlighted music genres including Makina, a form of hardcore techno which originated in Spain with a keen following in the North East, and Monta, the events held to dance and listen to it.

Sunderland’s Blue Monkey was located in an old bingo hall on Bedford Street in the city centre, the site has now been demolished to make way for the new Empire cinema. But during the 90s, it was a haven for ravers before it burned to the ground.

In 1999, efforts began to turn the former Plaza Bingo Hall in Pallion into a new nightclub, this time called the New Monkey. However, residents living near the venue objected to the plans, claiming their lives would be disrupted by late night comings and goings, loud music and antisocial behaviour.

But bosses behind the club resubmitted plans, this time saying they aimed to open a private members’ only dance club, serving only soft drinks - thereby removing liquor licence control by the local authority.

So began the era of the New Monkey which finally ended in March 2006 when more than 100 police officers raided the venue, seizing drugs and making 14 arrests. Search warrants were also simultaneously executed at the homes of senior management and staff from the trouble-hit venue.

Now the graduate filmmakers, working under the banner of Tyne and Weird, have joined forces with Dubai-based Moving Adverts to make Our Cup of Tea, which looks into the past and present of West Auckland FC.

The Northern League side won the Sir Thomas Lipton trophy – considered as the precursor of the World Cup - in 1909, winning 2-0 against FC Winterthur, and then again in 1911 after beating Juventus 6-1.

In January 1994, the trophy was stolen from a workingmen’s club in the town, with the original still missing.

The award-winning team are working on a release date next month, with its release coming in the wake of their graduation from their digital film production programmes.

They hope to show the 15-minute feature at film festivals and are looking into putting it online.

Four star rating

The University has been awarded a four-star rating in the 2019 QS Stars rating system.

This rating system considers over 50 different categories including employability, teaching, facilities and research, then ranks participating institutions from one to five stars accordingly, helping prospective students to decide where to study.

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As well as the overall four star rating Sunderland was awarded the maximum rating of five stars for teaching, employability, internationalisation, facilities and inclusiveness.

The University was also given a four-star rating in the Specialist Criteria category, for innovation.

Find out more about the QS Stars University Ratings

Welcome Crew 2019

Volunteers wanted for Saturday 14 September to Sunday 22 September - APPLY HERE

You know best that the University of Sunderland welcome week is one of the biggest and most important weeks of the year for new students. Here is your chance to be part of our 2019 Students’ Union programme of activities and events.

Our Welcome Crew are an amazing team of volunteers who support new students throughout Welcome Week and are a friendly face at our events and activities, making sure everyone feels happy and settled in. From moving into student accommodation, answering questions, providing tips and info, and making sure students are safe throughout the week on and off campus - The Crew is essential to making student’s first University experiences the very best they can be.

How do I apply?

For more information about the role and how to apply visit:

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Don’t forget you can record all of your volunteering hours along the way, have your volunteering recorded on your HEAR and use your experiences when applying for the SuPA award!

Dan's engaging role

Team Sunderland are pleased to welcome Daniel Kendal to the team as their new Student Engagement Officer.

Dan takes on the role having recently graduated from Sunderland with a degree in Sports Coaching. 

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During his time studying at the University Dan was a key figure in the volunteering scheme, clocking up over 500 hours.

Dan also coached one of Team Sunderland’s Men’s Football teams alongside his degree and is looking forward to getting stuck into his new role.

Dan said: “I’m hoping to bring even more success, building on last year’s achievements and increase the participation across the board as well as helping to create a vibrant and successful environment at Team Sunderland for our teams to thrive.”

“I’ll be holding events to help bring people that are new to the university as well as returners together alongside the great team at Team Sunderland.”

“I’ll also be embracing internal competitions to help drive our clubs on towards greater success”

Sports Development Manager Sean Percival said: “It’s fantastic to have Dan on board, we’re looking forward to seeing his contributions to the team.”

He added: “This is a big year for Team Sunderland and Dan will be at the forefront of what we’re trying to do with our teams.”

Dan will be based in the Team Sunderland office in Edinburgh Building and can be contacted at


Our University has brought to life a Hartlepool schoolgirl’s winning design as part of a national engineering competition.

The Leaders Award “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” competition, is supported by Facebook, Network Rail and Gatwick Airport, with our University in North East regional arm of the competition.

Grace, a Year 4 pupil at Barnard Grove School when she designed the Liquid Detector, which is a pet bowl for visually impaired users to prevent overfilling of the bowl with water, or in the case of Guide Dogs, to alert when the owner when a bowl needs filling up.

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Grace’s prototype is now being showcased for three weeks alongside 11 other inspirational UK pupils’ inventions, as part of an exhibition at Gatwick Airport South Terminal.

The exhibition, which is also online, aims to invite people to vote for their favourite invention, and the public is being encouraged to support Grace’s design by voting online at

The exhibition also features a ‘Wall of Fame 19’ for Gatwick’s 125,000 daily visitors to vote for their favourite creation. The prototypes on display include those built by engineering students and technicians from the University of Sunderland and were winning or shortlisted entries from the ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’ regional competition from the North East.

The competition promotes engineering to young people and allows them to find the ‘engineer within’ by designing solutions to problems they have identified. Nationally the competition has attracted over 49,000 entries this year alone. 51% percent of entries were from female pupils.

Supported locally by the University of Sunderland, “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” competition, known as the Leaders Award is run by Primary Engineer and links both primary and secondary schools across the North East with engineering professionals from across the sectors.

The competition celebrates the ingenuity of pupils from three to 19 years of age and all entries are graded by engineering professionals with winning designs selected regionally by university and industry-led judging panels.

Dave Knapton, Principal Lecturer and the Engineering Academic Team Leader within the Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing. said: “Engineering is very much part of the culture and heritage here in the North East, it is therefore no surprise the high levels of engagement from schools and companies resulting in the highest number of entries from all the regions. As a university we are very pleased to be working with Primary Engineering to promote the Leaders Award and jointly share the message that Engineering offers amazing professional career opportunities which young people should really consider.

“It is so heartening to see the absolutely fantastic ideas from the young people focused firmly on solving real-world problems to improve society. The most difficult part is choosing which idea we will prototype for unveiling at next year’s awards event. This process starts now with students working alongside the young inventors and academic staff to bring their ideas off the sketch pad and into a working prototype. We try and mimic an industrial design and develop process wherever possible which is valuable experience for all involved.”

The Gatwick Airport exhibition is a celebration of the designs which have been brought to life by universities throughout the five years the competition has been running and demonstrates Primary Engineer’s commitment to provide young people from all backgrounds with opportunities to acquire the skills they need for a rewarding career in engineering, science and technology. The Government says that over 200,000 new engineers are required per year to meet the demands of modern society.

Dr Susan Scurlock, MBE, founder of Primary Engineer said: “This exhibition at one of the most important travel hubs in the UK is testament to the commitment of commercial organisations, schools and universities who are all doing their bit to help pupils tap into their inner engineer. Each year I am astounded by the designs by pupils, some as young as three, as they identify problems to solve which are important to them and in turn inspire engineers to build their solutions. We started by asking engineers to inspire children and have found that children inspire engineers. Perfect!”

To vote

To enter the competition schools can visit

About Primary Engineer

• Primary Engineer is a not for profit educational organisation. Its approach brings engineering and engineers into primary and secondary classrooms and curricula. Inspiring children, pupils and teachers through continued professional development, whole class projects, and the Leaders Award “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” competition.

• Primary Engineer engaged over 4,000 teachers, 60,000 children and 1,500 engineers in 2018

• Primary Engineer® includes Early Years Engineer® for pre-school, Primary Engineer® with a range of teacher training courses across Primary School phases, Secondary Engineer® and most recently STATWARS® a competition to develop data skills.

• “If you were an engineer what would you do?” is a UK-wide annual competition open to 3-19 year-olds which asks them to interview engineers to design a solution to a problem that they have identified.

  • In the 2018-19 academic year over 49,000 pupils across the UK entered the competition.
  • The competition is addressing diversity with a 51% female participation. 58% of last year’s winning entries were from female pupils.
  • Across the UK, pupil designs are selected and made by university partners - bringing their inventions to life. These are then unveiled at awards events and public exhibitions across the country.
  • The Institutions of Primary and Secondary Engineers are the foundations on which to challenge the widening engineering skills-gap and improve school pupils’ career pathways and employability through close collaboration with pupils, educators, industry, the STEM community, and parents.
  • ,


Meet your Presidents


Our students have elected a new SU Executive Team. The team will lead the Students' Union, work on campaigns they’re passionate about, and represent the interests of our students at the highest level in the University.

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Our new SU Presidents are:

President: Activities - Bryan Pepple

The role of the President Activities is to be the lead officer for students on creating opportunities for non-academic development. They will ensure students get the best experience in areas including employability, community building, volunteering and provision of facilities. They will campaign to improve non-academic development opportunities at Sunderland and be the lead officer on all student led activities.

Why I stood for election

I was President: Activities in 2018/19 and re-ran for election because I wanted another year to make a bigger impact on the student body. Also, I love the SU! It’s a fun place to work.

What I hope to achieve

I want to achieve everything stated on my manifesto, most importantly more engagement with students and societies. 

Did you know… 

I need music to concentrate – I do everything with music playing in the background!

Get in touch with me:
t: (0191) 515 3512

President: Wellbeing - Helder Costa

The role of the President: Wellbeing is to be the lead officer for students on welfare and safety policy development. They will ensure students get the highest experience in areas including, but not limited to, mental health, crime prevention, quality and diversity and accommodation. They will campaign to improve wellbeing within the University and local area and be the lead officer on all wellbeing projects.

Why I stood for election

I stood so that I could have a positive impact in our students’ experience. I want everyone to have the best experience possible at Sunderland and being President: Wellbeing gives me the opportunity to make changes to help make sure this happens.

What I hope to achieve

I want to fulfil all the proposals from my manifesto including increasing safety on campus and improving the level of support available to students in choosing accommodation.  

Did you know…

I have training in how to deliver babies. I was a volunteer Firefighter in Portugal and that was part of my training. 

Get in touch with me
t: (0191) 515 3584

President: Education - Himanshu Kalla

The role of President: Education is to be the lead officer for students on educational policy development. They ensure students get the highest academic quality in areas including teaching, feedback and assessment and timetabling. They will campaign to improve education issues in the University and be the lead officer on all academic projects.

Why I stood for election

I stood for elections to contribute to the University and to all the students by providing ample assistance and guidance to aid in their academia and make the learning process more fun loving and engaging. 

What I hope to acheive this year 

I hope to achieve higher engagement of all our students and try to lower the attainment gap.

Did you know...

I once made two soccer playing robots for a tech competition and got disqualified as one of the robots got nasty and destroyed the ball, the other robot and also almost injured other competitiors. Everyone was fine though I promise!

Get in touch with me:
t: (0191) 515 3599

You can find out more about the new SU Executive Team at the Students' Union Website


A graduate who battled setbacks to achieve his dream job is now starting a new life in Dubai – and is advising any young person to never give up on their dreams.

For many young people A-level results day it is a day for celebration, but for some not getting the results they want can seem a devastating blow. But, says James Gittins, it may still be the beginning of your path to your dream career.

James, 22, failed to achieve his grades, but a call to the University of Sunderland’s Clearing hotline changed everything, and landed him a place on the BA Primary Education degree. In 2018 James graduated, landed his dream job as a primary school teacher in Washington, and now he has moved to Dubai to teach there alongside his girlfriend.

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The University of Sunderland Clearing Hotline is now open on 0191 5153000. You can find out more online at:

James says: “I’ve just finished my first year teaching at St John Boste RC Primary School in Washington, and I’m just about to start a new job at Fugera Primary Academy, which is about an hour outside of Dubai.”

James’s dad and stepmother are both teachers, and they inspired James to think about working overseas. While in his first year of teaching James brought up the idea of working in Dubai with his partner Nicola – and they decided it was the right move for them.

Influenced by his family it had always been James’s dream to be a teacher – but when he failed to achieve his A-level grades, it looked for a while that the dream might be over before it began.  But a call to the University of Sunderland’s Clearing Hotline got him back on track.

“I only missed out by 10 UCAS points on my A-levels, and I really began to consider that I’d have to do something else, and it would just take me a bit longer to get to where I wanted to be.

“I called Clearing at Sunderland on the off chance, and they put me through to the head of the course. She said they were willing to take a chance on me. I think it paid off!

“Studying at Sunderland was the three best years of my life. It was great learning in lectures, but being able to apply that in the classroom first to an inner city school in Newcastle, and then a rural school in Stockton, and one in Chester Le Street, really helped me meet a range of kids, and really convinced me that teaching was right for me.

“The expression “Shy bairns get nowt” is one you should remember when apply to Clearing! You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there, and the opportunities will come.

“You can only lose if you don’t try.”

The young doctors

As they opened their A Level results, some Gateshead students were thrilled to discover they were about to become trailblazers.

Three pupils at Emmanuel College will be among the first 50 people to train as doctors at the University of Sunderland's brand new School of Medicine.

Surena Sahota, Francesca Cockell and Jack Greenslade, all 18, last Thursday confirmed their places at the school of medicine which opens in September.

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The School is one of five across the country which won a Government funding bis last year, aiming to "address the regional imbalance of medical education places" and ensure trained doctors stay and work in the North East area.

In 2018, half of all medical school entrants were privately educated, despite research led by the University of York showing that students from disadvantaged backgrounds actually perform better if they make it to medical school.

The new school aims to open up access to talented students from all backgrounds, and therefore offers free accommodation to first year students, as well as scholarships to help its students with living costs.

This was a big draw for Surena, who will become the first doctor in her family, making her beautician mam and HGV driver dad "indescribably proud".

She said: "I felt like it was my best chance to get in because they really want to give people who don't come from a medical background a chance. I did work experience at a hospital and people were surprised that my family didn't work in the hospital - it feels like to get the opportunities and work experience it's about who you know,  but the Sunderland school is changing that."

Surena Sahota (centre) with fellow prospective medic Hussein Tuzlaw and future vet Kate Clelland

Surena added: "I've wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old, I've always wanted to do something that would help people, and then when I discovered I liked science it all came together.

"It's become a part of me now, I just don't think I'd feel happy doing anything else, so I'm so happy I got in. I would love to stay at home after I qualify and help people who are from where I'm from."

For Francesca, the opportunity to stay so close to home, as well as to be part of a small class of just 50 students, made Sunderland an appealing choice.

She said: "I knew I wanted to stay in the North East to stay close to my family, and I really liked the idea of it being such a small course - I feel like every person will have a really good relationship with the tutors.

"I'm incredibly proud to be from the North East, so I will be staying here and working here once I qualify. There is a huge issue with people moving away, especially with the sort of salaries you can earn in London, but I think it's important to stay here, where I'm from, and give something back."

Without the continued support of her lecturers and fellow students, Yasmine Haq says she may never have graduated from her Pharmacy degree this summer.

The last 18 months have been a rollercoaster of emotion for Yasmine after her mum Denise was diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle just weeks before the 24-year-old graduated from our University.

Caring for her mum took its toll on Yasmine as she continued her studies and prepared for exams. However, she says: “The lecturers were amazing, they were so kind and understanding and gave me so much support every step of the way. The life-long friends I made on the course were always there for me too, whether it was taking down notes or just updating me on what was happening I never felt alone and can’t thank them all enough for getting me through one of the most difficult times of my life.”

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She added: “I didn’t want mum to give up fighting cancer, so I couldn’t give up either, even though there were days when I just thought I couldn’t carry on. She was so frightened at times and I knew I had to get the job done for her. The morning before she died I was sat in the hospice revising until 2am, by 10.30am she had passed away with me and my sister Nadia at her side, she was just 55 years old.”

Yasmine, from Spennymoor, County Durham, showed such resolve during the last months of her degree that lecturers nominated her for a graduation award - the Jemma O'Sullivan Award for Care and Compassion in the Practice of Pharmacy.

The award is presented each year to a graduate who has demonstrated these qualities during their degree course. Jemma O’ Sullivan was just 22 when she was killed in a motorway crash in 2010. To mark a lasting legacy for Jemma, her parents Vincent and Margaret, sponsor this special award each year.

“It means so much to be recognised by the university in this way. I don’t know how I would have coped without the support of my lecturers. I pushed myself and am proud to have walked away with a 2:2. My mum always wanted me to have my own career, and that’s why I kept going.”

Dr Adrian Moore, Head of School: Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Sunderland, said: “Yasmine fully deserves this award, she has been through so much over these last 18 months, coping with her mum’s cancer diagnosis.

“She showed incredible resilience, and we were all hugely impressed by her determination to complete her course while caring for her mum.

“Thanks must also go to our students on this course who are all very close knit and really supported Yasmine in the months leading up to graduation.”

Yasmine has now begun her pre-registration year as a community pharmacist at Eilbeck Deneside pharmacy in Seaham, working alongside her father Zia, who is also a pharmacist and a Sunderland graduate.

“It’s great to be working alongside my dad, he’s so proud of what I’ve achieved. He was happier about my results than I actually was. We have all been through so much together since mum’s diagnosis. I have had to do so much growing up.”

Also working part-time at the pharmacy is 21-year-old sister Nadia, studying pharmacy in Liverpool.

Yasmine says: “Pharmacy really runs through our family. My mam was a dispenser when she met my dad after they began working together all those years ago.”

However, Yasmine admits that her road to university wasn’t straight forward. Having performed poorly during her science-based A-levels, she says felt lost at the time and didn’t really know what she wanted from a career, so took a year out.

She worked for a year in the Stockton pharmacy branch of the company she’s currently based at in Seaham, gaining a host of practical skills and experience. She then successfully completed a Foundation Course at Sunderland College which led to the Pharmacy MPharm degree at Sunderland.

She explains: “I learned quickly from my mistakes during my A-levels and that year out I wanted to prove myself. It also allowed me the time to know what I wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy failing and would not let it happen again. The Foundation Year also guided me easily into university.

“I hope all I have achieved is making a difference. Everyone knows someone close to them affected by cancer, I hope my story offers comfort and support to another family going through the same thing.”

She added: “My mum had never been ill in her life, but she started losing weight and suffered menopausal symptoms, then a minor procedure to her bowel picked up the rare form of liver cancer, she may have had a chance had it been picked up earlier. I would say to anyone showing similar symptoms to get themselves checked as early as possible.”

Jemma O'Sullivan Award

The Jemma O'Sullivan Award for Care and Compassion in the Practice of Pharmacy is presented each year to a graduate who has demonstrated these qualities during their degree course. Jemma O’ Sullivan was just 22 when she was killed in a motorway crash in 2010.

To mark a lasting legacy for Jemma, her parents Vincent and Margaret, sponsor this special award, presented during the graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light.

Yasmine was presented with a special glass gift as well as a cheque to support her future career. This is the fifth year that the award has been presented.

A large glass memorial, created at National Glass Centre, has also been permanently placed in the foyer of the University’s Sciences Complex. Recipients of the annual award have their names engraved onto a plaque that stands next to the memorial.

Jemma’s parents were very keen that the award didn’t necessarily reflect the top academic performance, but was about demonstrating the caring and compassionate qualities of a pharmacist. These were the qualities Jemma possessed; a friendly person who was easy to talk to. 

Jemma’s father Vincent said: “Jemma was a bright and intelligent young woman who brought nothing but joy to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her. We felt this project encapsulates her memory, allowing us in some way to continue her good work and preserve what she represented.”

Jemma, from Limerick in the Republic of Ireland, was a passenger in a Citroen Berlingo on the M8, near Warmsworth, Doncaster, in September 2010, when a lorry crashed into it. The driver, who was texting at the time, was jailed for five years after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Since her death her family and friends have raised more than £100,000 to support a hospice pharmacy in South Africa treating people with HIV/AIDS.

Her father Vincent said: “The year before she died, Jemma had volunteered at an HIV hospice crèche, where there were 300 children, 80 per cent had HIV/AIDS, next door to a hospice in Pretoria; she had an incredible experience there and learned to listen and talk to patients, that was her great strength.”

“We decided to support the Leratong Hospice in Jemma’s memory, raising £100k, and renovated the pharmacy, stocking it with drugs for the next four years. It’s officially been called ‘Jemma’s Pharmacy’, there’s a lovely plaque at the site.”

He added: “We were also supported by South Yorkshire Police in an initiative called Jemma Bear.

“Some 500 teddy bears have been produced in memory of Jemma and will be used by police family liaison officers across South Yorkshire to comfort children involved in collisions on the roads.

“After discussion with South Yorkshire Police, we felt a toy bear may be a comfort and a perhaps a distraction to children trying to deal with shock or possible grief.”

Specialist firearms officers have given student paramedics at our University a chance to discover more about the major incidents they may encounter once they’re fully qualified.

From terrorist threats and road traffic accidents to a person threatening to self-harm, Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit officers are prepared for life-threatening scenarios every day of the year. Their training involves trauma based first-aid skills and they currently have 60 firearms officers trained at an enhanced level of first-aid qualification.

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Their expertise and experience was delivered on campus during presentations and talks to second year students on the Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care degree. There was also an opportunity for the students to demonstrate their skills in the aftermath of a mock terrorism incident, reinforcing the timing and role they play to save lives on the scene.

“We wanted to show our trainee paramedics how they would work closely with firearms officers during a terrorist incident,” explained Barry Evans, senior lecturer in Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care.

“Historically paramedics would be the last in the Multi Agency Response to deal, see or treat the patient on scene. Now with the support and guidance from the Firearms officers and Multi Agency Teams, paramedics enter the scene under strict supervision and strict authority once the threat has been removed.”

He added: “We wanted to get this into their training early, as the role of the modern paramedic is changing, it’s much more multi-disciplinary.

“No longer are paramedics simply in ambulances dealing with the medically unwell patient. They are now required and used in GP surgeries, Off-Shore, Armed Forces, Close Protection roles in the UK and overseas and playing an important role in Terrorist Incidents facing all risk possibilities and they have to be prepared for every scenario.

“We equip them to meet the challenges of modern paramedic practice, enabling them to deal with unpredictable situations competently and confidently.”

Firearms trainers Sean Wheatley and Adrian Chadwick, from the Tactical Training Centre, gave the briefings at the University’s Shackleton House.

Police Constable Wheatley said: “We wanted to give the students an understanding of the role the firearms officers play in all manner of policing incidents before the paramedics arrive on scene and we have made the area safe for them to move in. Once the threat has been removed, and we have managed the early stages of life-threatening trauma, it buys vital time for the emergency services to treat patients on scene, this is down to our own first aid training, which includes some officers trained to an advanced level.”

Police Constable Chadwick added: “We hope the students took away a valuable insight into our work and they can take this into their own role once they’re fully qualified. They saw first-hand how the emergency service co-operate together at the scene of a major incident, which is vital to the successful outcome of an operation.”

Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit includes various teams and departments, and consists of officers and staff from Durham Constabulary and Cleveland Police. They shares work on roads policing, firearms incidents, dog training and vehicle thefts.

Find out more about the University’s Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care degree.

Sounds of Sunderland

The first ever Sounds of Sunderland event will burst on to the city’s music scene between 27 and 29 September, showcasing established and emerging talent.  

Based in Sunniside Gardens, the jam-packed stage line up from 2 - 10pm on 28 September will be headlined by Sunderland’s very own Social Room with other acts on the bill including Vandebilt, Plastic Glass and Docksuns.

Music lovers can benefit from an early bird ticket price of £8 plus booking fee if they buy soon, by visiting

Supporting city centre venues will hold several fringe events running from Friday 27- Sunday 29 September.

The Ivy House and Museum Vaults will host a programme of local music while Independent welcome Beardyman on Friday 27 September.

Tickets for the Beardyman gig are £15 plus booking fee and can be purchased by visiting Independent

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Our academic staff have again been recognised in the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme 2019

Andrew Sturrock, Principal Lecturer in Pharmacy, has become our latest National Teaching Fellow.

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Andrew Sturrock, National Teaching Fellow 2019

Throughout his time at the University of Sunderland and indeed in Higher Education, Andrew Sturrock has successfully driven improvements to the student experience. Under his leadership the University’s Master in Pharmacy (MPharm) programme has been wholly transformed, both in terms of student success, learning and teaching approaches and assessment.

Andrew’s improvements have made a positive difference to student satisfaction and overall performance. In the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Registration Assessment results 95% of University of Sunderland students achieved registration at first attempt, 15% higher than the national average. This result is testimony to Andrew’s transformational approach to teaching and the supportive work he and his team have undertaken in preparing students to become qualified pharmacists.

The University of Sunderland’s Pharmacy programme was first established in 1921, making it one of the longest-running programmes – and it’s been at the cutting-edge of Pharmacy education throughout that time.

Professor Michael Young, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, commented: “By linking his research with teaching, Andrew has spearheaded innovative inter-professional education that moves well beyond the traditional ways that allied health professions work alongside one another. Andrew’s research interests are embedded in teaching and provide authentic, experiential learning for students, through simulation, inter-professional learning or working directly with patients.

“Andrew’s work on curriculum transformation and the development of pedagogical approaches has had a significant impact on the student experience, outcomes and employability not only at the University of Sunderland but also in other institutions. He retains a strong focus on leading and developing other academic staff from the University of Sunderland and beyond. Andrew has undertaken the role of tutor to those working as part of the Academic / Community Pharmacy Pre-registration year, acting as a mentor to potential future generations of academics to ensure student success and employment.”