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Virtual stage set as University of Bristol celebrates its class of 2020

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will kick off the virtual events on Friday 16 July

The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond is the former President of the UK Supreme Court and the first woman to serve in the role

The current Chancellor of the University, Sir Paul Nurse will speak to Life Science students

16 July 2020

High-profile speakers will help the University of Bristol’s class of 2020 celebrate their time at the University in a series of live virtual celebration events starting this week.

After the coronavirus pandemic forced universities across the world to cancel the annual summer graduation for final year students, six renowned speakers with links to the University of Bristol will help the students mark the end of their studies. The events will be hosted online, with students across the world signing in to watch from home with their friends and family.

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a prominent anti-apartheid activist who finished her medical degree in Bristol after being exiled from South Africa in 1976, is currently coordinating South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The South African Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Dlamini-Zuma will join Faculty of Health Science students for the first event on Friday 17 July.

The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond will speak to final-year Social Science and Law students on Monday 20 July. Lady Hale is the former President of the UK Supreme Court and the first woman to serve in the role, as well as being Chancellor of the University of Bristol from 2004-2016.

The third speaker, for the Faculty of Arts virtual event on Friday 24 July, is writer, performer and former Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule. Vanessa, who has won over 10 slam titles, graduated from the University in 2013 and has performed at an array of renowned poetry events, festivals and venues. Her poetry collections 'Joyriding The Storm' and 'A Recipe For Sorcery' are both published by Burning Eye Books and her work was Highly Commended in The Forward Prize Anthology 2019. Her one woman show SEXY toured with the kind support of Arts Council England, Bristol Old Vic and Camden People's Theatre. 

On Tuesday 28 July, Life Sciences students will hear from Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, former President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute and the University’s current Chancellor.

Founder and CEO of Snap Fashion Jenny Griffiths MBE will speak to Engineering students on Wednesday 29 July. After graduating from the University with a degree in Computer Science, Jenny went on to establish the company and was named in Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Tech in 2019.

Rounding off the virtual celebration events is Dame Julia Slingo, former Chief Scientist of the Met Office and Chair of the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, who will address Science students on Thursday 30 July.

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to hold the position of Secretary General of the African Union, said: “I have very fond memories of my time in Bristol, a city that welcomed me and helped me finish my medical degree. I look forward to speaking to the Health Science students, many of whom will be vital in our ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Hosted by the Deans of the University’s six Faculties, the virtual celebrations will include an address from a member of the senior management of the University, a final year student and performances by student societies.

The virtual events are not intended to be a replacement or a replica for students’ graduation ceremonies, which the University hopes to hold next year.  

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “2020 is a year we’ll never forget for many reasons. Yet despite all that has happened, it is also a time for us to celebrate the hard work, dedication, and passion of our final-year students.

“We look forward to welcoming them all back in the very near future, so they can experience the extraordinary rite of passage that is the formal graduation ceremony. In the meantime, I am delighted to welcome a host of incredible alumni to celebrate our class of 2020 and their time in Bristol.”

Further information

To register for your faculty event, click here.

  • Faculty of Health Sciences: Friday 17 July, 10am – 11am
  • Faculty of Social Sciences and Law: Monday 20 July, 10 am – 11am
  • Faculty of Arts: Friday 24 July, 10 am – 11am
  • Faculty of Life Sciences: Tuesday 28 July, 10 am – 11am
  • Faculty of Engineering: Wednesday 29 July, 10 am – 11am
  • Faculty of Sciences: Thursday 30 July, 10 am – 11am
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