Sussex’s winter Graduation is a worldwide celebration

There will be a truly international flavour to the University of Sussex's Winter Graduation Ceremonies on Friday (29 Jan), with degrees being conferred on graduands from more than 100 nations - from Azerbaidjan to Zambia.  Sanjeev Bhaskar and Professor Michael Farthing

The winter ceremonies, held at The Dome in Brighton, are predominantly for those receiving postgraduate qualifications. This year more than 500 Masters degrees will be awarded in person, and 65 Doctorates, as well as Post Graduate Certificates of Education and first degrees for those unable to attend last year's summer graduation.

As a new development this year the University is video-streaming the ceremony live on the University website . This should allow students, family and friends across the world to watch the proceedings as they happen.

The University's Chancellor Sanjeev Bhaskar, who will be conferring the awards, says: "This will be my first winter graduation ceremony as Chancellor of the University, so it will be particularly special for me. I'm already beginning to realise what a special, life-changing place Sussex is."

In praising the achievements of those attending the ceremonies, Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing says: "Postgraduates are the backbone of  this University, and we salute their passion and dedication, which have made Sussex a richer place during their time here."

Honorary degrees will be presented this year to: 

  • Professor Sir Peter Knight, Senior Principal at Imperial College, London, who was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2005 for his work in optical physics. He becomes a Doctor of Science
  • Professor Frances Stewart, Director of the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) at the Department of International Development, Oxford. She receives Doctor of Letters.
  • Professor Walter Ledermann (1911-2009), a former Professor of Mathematics at the University of Sussex and distinguished algebraist, posthumously receives Doctor of Science.  The award will be presented to his son, Professor Jonathan Ledermann.
  • Ralph Emanuel, an international business executive (now retired) and an enthusiastic supporter of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex since its inception in 1994. He receives Doctor of the University.

Among those receiving Masters awards are Cathy Savage, who juggled looking after two small children with studying to achieve a Distinction for an MA in Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture, while antique importer Nicholas (Bertie) Haken's love of the past led him to take an MA in Field Archaeology.

Those receiving Doctorates include Tina Kretschmer, whose East German childhood inspired her psychology research on how children develop personal value systems, and Olena Ribianina, from the Ukraine, who used computer modelling to study visually guided navigation of ants, honeybees and bumblebees.

Case studies

Tina makes the most of freedoms her parents never had Tina Kretschmer

Tina Kretschmer, who graduates with a DPhil in Psychology at the year's Winter Graduation Ceremony, was born in East Germany and is grateful for all the opportunities she has had in being able to travel and study abroad post 1989 - opportunities that were not available to her parents.

Tina, who was nine when the Berlin Wall came down, says: "In essence, the culture of my childhood ceased to exist and was replaced by an overwhelming 'blanket of West Germany', which soon seemed to take over and re-order the East. Although I doubt that this strategy of complete and rapid change carried out by people from the West and accepted and often celebrated by people in the East was the most successful, the basic experience of being able to grow up in a democracy, to have freedom of speech, not having to fear that my partner or close friend or my uncle is working as an informal spy for the secret police, is something I deeply value.

"My parents grew up in the German East and were as old as I am now when the wall came down. They had not been able to travel and explore the world when they were young but they made sure that I took full advantage of this opportunity. My parents always encouraged and supported me when I went to live abroad and only recently, at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall last year, did we talk about all the possibilities in life I now have. Curiously, my sister chose a very different path and stayed in Germany where she works as a civil servant. The differences between us were always striking despite being close in age and growing up as best friends. I always found that really fascinating and eventually looked at it in detail in my research."

Tina, who lived in London and Sweden while studying for her first degree in Berlin, came to Sussex for her DPhil because of the work of developmental psychologist Dr Alison Pike. "While working on my final year project in Germany I looked at family effects in value development in children and found that, although parents are always discussed as highly important value educators, siblings in one family are not very similar. Alison, with her background in sibling research and her focus on the question of why siblings are so different, was the perfect supervisor."

Dr Pike says: "Tina was a star. She published several papers during her DPHil and I am very proud of her achievement."


When studying is a family affair

Cathy Savage with Holly and EmilyCathy Savage describes her decision to study full-time for an MA in English in 2008 as "insanity".  It was to be the realisation of a long-held ambition, but at the time her two daughters were aged three and one and she felt that committing herself to studying would be a drain on her energy, her time and resources.

This week the 36-year-old graduates with a Distinction at the University of Sussex's Winter Graduation degree ceremony - and her sanity fully intact.

Cathy, who took her first degree (a BA in English with French) at Sussex in the 1990s and followed it with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (2000-01), spent the intervening years teaching English to secondary school children in Heathfield. But she hankered after returning to studying following the birth of her second daughter, Emily, in 2006. She approached her former tutor, Professor Brian Cummings, who supported her application.

"It took a lot of self-discipline because I only had two days a week, when both sets of grandparents took over the childcare, plus evenings, to do all the work," says Cathy, who lives in Buxted with her husband, Paul and their children, Holly (4 ) and Emily (3). "I made it harder for myself, too, by taking two extra courses.  Daft, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"The MA was great for reminding me just why I'm so enthusiastic about teaching literature in school. Apart from the ludicrous horror of juggling my time and family around deadlines, I loved every moment. It's very easy, after you've had children, to feel like your brain has mostly leaked out into your pillow, so it was a relief to find it was still in there somewhere."

For her dissertation, Cathy chose to look at humour in the works of celebrated children's author, Lewis Carroll.  "I reread Alice in Wonderland for the course and saw it in a different light. The dissertation was basically about how Lewis Carroll is really a misunderstood stand-up comedian. Sort of."

The hardest part, Cathy remembers, was the Christmas of 2008, when the whole family, grandparents included, fell ill. "I ended up writing both term papers in five days flat, then couldn't actually move my neck for the next month having spent so long in one go on the computer."

Cathy's ultimate dream would be to study for a doctorate and teach in a university. "But the economic climate and job prospects are fairly diabolical for that," she points out. "Happily, I do still really enjoy teaching across the age range and am more than happy to carry on where I left off."


 Antique dealer proves the value of experience  Bertie

Antique dealer Nicholas Haken (known as Bertie) puts a high value on education, having moved from dating furniture to studying rocks as part of his MA in Field Archaeology.

Bertie, aged 40 when he began his course, has proved that life experience and dedication can help mature students achieve: he is set to graduate with a distinction.

After he left school aged 16, Bertie went to art college. Leaving behind his studies, he worked first as a labourer and later as a tree surgeon.

He discovered a love of things old when he started his own business importing antique furniture. His interest in archaeology led him to the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), where he passed a Certificate and later a Diploma in Practical Archaeology before embarking on the MA.

As part of his studies he helped unearth almost 3,000 artefacts, dated from c 10,500-1500 BC, by fieldwalking and excavation.

Bertie's research revealed previously undocumented human activity near Brightling parish in the High Weald, East Sussex.

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology David Rudling says: "Bertie's dissertation was very impressive indeed (marked as a very good distinction level)."

Bertie, who still runs his antiques business, is full of praise for the higher education experience. "Sussex is ideal for mature students wanting to further their interest in archaeology, especially because of the range of subjects covered and with high-profile archaeologists at hand to discuss and further research ideas," he says.


Honorary Degrees

Ralph Emanuel

Doctor of the University Ralph Emanuel

Ralph Emanuel is a retired international business executive with a strong record of public service and charitable work, especially within the London Jewish community.

Mr Emanuel has taken an interest in the University of Sussex since its foundation. In 1972, to mark his mother's 80th birthday, the Bessy Emanuel Educational Trust was set up to provide an annual bursary for a student to research a worthy project in Israel. Trustees have included University of Sussex luminaries Gabriel Josipovici, the late Emanuel Eppel and the late Julius Carlebach.

More recently, the Trust has made grants to the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at Sussex to support educational activities, including high-profile events held to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Emanuel's parents were both immigrants from Germany. Mr Emanuel himself, who was born in Hove in 1923, has a great pride in his German-Jewish heritage.

He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies since its inception in 1994, and a prominent member of the Support Group, with responsibility for fund-raising both from charitable trusts and from a network of individual donors.

It was on Mr Emanuel's initiative that Lord (Richard) Attenborough was invited to be the Centre's Life President and Lord Moser and Lord Weidenfeld to act as the Life Vice-Presidents.

At a ceremony in July 2003 to mark Mr Emanuel's 80th birthday, the University's then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alasdair Smith, presented him with a framed citation in recognition for his invaluable encouragement and support.


Sir Peter Knight

Doctor of Science Sir Peter Knight

A Sussex graduate and optical physicist, Professor Sir Peter Knight is Senior Principal at Imperial College London.

Sir Peter did his undergraduate and doctoral work at Sussex between 1965 and 1972, subsequently joining the University of Rochester and then Stanford University, after which he returned to Sussex as SRC Research Fellow from 1974 to 1976.

He has spent most of his distinguished academic career at Imperial, while also working at other notable institutions in Europe and the US.

He was Head of the Physics Department at Imperial from 2001-05, and from 2005-08 he was Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and was instrumental in setting up Imperial's new Grantham Institute for Climate Change.

As Senior Principal of Imperial he is responsible its research strategy and is a member of the Imperial College Management Board and Council.

He has won a number of prizes and awards for his research on theoretical quantum optics, strong field physics and especially quantum information science, and was knighted in 2005.

Sir Peter is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Optical Society of America and of the Royal Society. He is a Past-President of the Optical Society of America and was for seven years a member of its Board of Directors.

Sir Peter was the first chair of the Science Board of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and is now a member of its Council. He was also Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK National Physical Laboratory until 2005.


Professor Walter Ledermann

Doctor of Science, posthumously awarded Walter Ledermann

Walter Ledermann was born in 1911 into a German Jewish family in Berlin. He studied Mathematics at the University of Berlin and graduated in November 1933, shortly after the Nazis came to power. He left Berlin two months later to take up a scholarship raised by students of St Andrews University to help refugees from Nazi persecution.

Professor Ledermann was always grateful to the people of St Andrews, to whom he owed his life. He was awarded his PhD in 1936 and, after a brief period in Edinburgh, became a lecturer at St Andrews in 1938.

In 1946 he married Ruth (Rushi) Stadler, also a refugee from Nazi Germany. That year he moved to the Department of Mathematics at Manchester University, where he remained for 16 years.

Professor Ledermann moved to Sussex in 1962 as a reader in mathematics and became a professor in 1965. His association with the University lasted more than 35 years. Although he became an emeritus professor in 1978 he continued to teach regularly for many years, well into his ninth decade.

He edited three successful series of mathematical texts. Two of his books - Introduction to the Theory of Finite Groups and Introduction to Group Characters - are classics.

Professor Ledermann moved to London in 1998 to be closer to his son and grandchildren and he cared for Rushi, whose health steadily declined over that period. He remained active until a few weeks before he died in May 2009, surviving Rushi by three weeks.


Professor Frances Stewart

Doctor of Letters Professor Frances Stewart

A pre-eminent development economist, Professor Frances Stewart is director of the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) in Oxford.

After undergraduate study at Oxford, Professor Stewart spent time working in Whitehall, and lectured in the Economic Department at the University of Nairobi, which is where she first became committed to development studies.

After returning to the UK, Professor Stewart started her doctorate at Oxford, investigating E G Schumacher's thesis that intermediate technology provided the answer to low productivity, poor employment and poverty. She became a Fellow of Somerville College, received her doctorate and then published Technology and Underdevelopment (1976), which investigated alternative technologies in several industries.

She spent time working at the World Bank and in UNICEF, and subsequently became involved with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) new vision of development, Human Development.

A good deal of Professor Stewart's work over the past 20 years has been concerned with refining and developing the concepts of human development, including identifying conditions for success in human development, exploring the relationship between human development and economic growth and showing that economic growth can be sustained only if human development is given priority.

The topic of conflict and development has become a key focus of her work, studying in particular the causes of civil wars to help identify policies to prevent them. In recent years, she has been investigating the role of horizontal inequalities in conflict, working with a team of scholars from Oxford and around the world.

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Tuesday, 26 January 2010