Graduation 2020

Our winter graduation celebrations begin today – and just as in the summer, things are a little different for graduating students this year…

With on-campus ceremonies cancelled, students, staff and alumni around the globe have moved online to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2020.

Members of the Leeds community – including our Chancellor Jane Francis, left, – have shared their video and written messages of congratulations and support for graduating students, while students shared celebratory posts on social media.

And through ‘My Leeds story’, we are shining a spotlight on members of the Class of 2020 who overcame personal challenges to graduate in trying circumstances. Recognising the challenges facing those entering the world of work, alumni who have walked this path before have offered advice for their fellow graduates.   

Running through these responses from our global Leeds alumni community is a single key thread – Together, we are Forever Leeds.


Over the past ten years, gifts to the University have provided scholarships for more than 1,400 students to study for their undergraduate degrees at Leeds.

This incredible generosity is changing lives for students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in Britain.

We know there are many other young people who would benefit from this support – and we know that it works! Students supported through scholarships consistently out-perform their peers when it comes to graduation – clear evidence of the way this targeted help is allowing the brightest young minds to overcome their disadvantages and thrive at University.

In this video, third year Criminal Justice and Criminology student scholar George Hobley talks about the challenges he faced as a child – and how a teacher helped him to overcome them. George explains how receiving a scholarship allowed him to focus on making a positive start to student life. 

The great outdoors

Each year, gifts to our Footsteps Fund support our union societies to improve the range of opportunities which they provide to our students.

This year, grants to our Hiking, Caving and Mountaineering and Climbing societies have enabled these groups to introduce more of our students to their activities in the great outdoors.

The cost of equipment has long been a barrier to new members joining the Caving Society. The purchase of safety harnesses, ropes, helmets and oversuits has enabled more adventurous students to take part in expeditions underground, such as at the spectacular Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales. The before and after image shows members on a rather muddy trek underground!

New equipment for both traditional mountain climbing and for use on indoor climbing walls has allowed the Mountaineering and Climbing society to recruit new members, while the Hiking group has purchased ropes, snow shovels, maps and kitchen equipment to support their group expeditions.



2020 Student Support Fund

Launched in the spring, our 2020 Student Support Fund was set up to help students who had been hit financially by the Covid-19 pandemic.

From those who were left desperately short of funds when their term-time employment ended to others who were stranded abroad, the fund has provided hundreds of grants to enable students to address the crisis in their lives. 

This was all made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of almost 500 alumni and other supporters whose gifts helped us to reach our target of £150,000 in just a matter of weeks. 

In this video, Leeds University Union Welfare Officer Sophia Hartley talks about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our students – and thanks those whose gifts have made such a difference to students adversely affected by the crisis.

Photo quiz – win a prize

Can you name our Nobel Prize winning alum; the graduate who became a star of both rugby codes – or the multiple medal winning swimmer pictured here?

Test your knowledge of our remarkable alumni with this 20-question picture quiz.

And you could even win a University of Leeds 2021 calendar. You’re excited, right?

To take part, click here.

Travel Bursaries

Donor support for Travel Bursaries enables postgraduate students to travel worldwide to conduct field research in areas such as sustainable agriculture and climate change.

Since the start of our Making a World of Difference campaign, this generous funding has offered the chance to 89 students to pursue their work overseas.

One such bursary enabled physical Geography PhD student Liam Taylor to spend time in Peru, tracking the recession of the Quelccaya, the world’s largest tropical ice cap, where rapid melting of the glacier is posing a major threat to nearby communities.

In this film, we see the immediate aftermath of a calving event, as an iceberg is released from the melting glacier, causing water levels to suddenly rise.

Covid Research

Research at Leeds has long been at the forefront of scientific discovery, providing insight and solutions into how to approach some of the world’s most complex challenges. Rarely has this been more apparent than during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whether advising government, analysing transmission of the virus, or identifying key areas for the UK’s recovery, Leeds researchers have been instrumental in helping the UK to navigate the challenges of Covid-19.

The expert knowledge of Professor Cath Noakes (pictured) on how pathogens spread inside buildings has played a key role in shaping public policy, thanks to her position on government advisory group SAGE.

Research into long-term Covid-19 symptoms, overseen by Dr Manoj Sivan, is helping to identify the support which patients need to recover.

Examination of live virus in faeces is exploring other modes of transmission of Covid-19, with major implications for patient management and care.

Artificial Intelligence and robotics from the School of Mechanical Engineering have been combined to create autonomous robots deployed to help clean public spaces.

Looking to the future, an international study has highlighted how decisions about recovery from the crisis can help to tackle the climate emergency.

Confronting kidnapping

Mexico. A country in which kidnapping is a pervasive insecurity for many citizens.

Following a three-year project to co-produce new counter-kidnapping tools and solutions, Dr Conor O’Reilly of the School of Law has taken these efforts in innovative new directions. By collaborating with filmmakers in Mexico, Conor has co-produced a series of films which aim to break taboos about kidnapping – and catalyse new responses

The series Amor Secuestrado (‘Kidnapped Love’) launched in the summer, with the aim of combatting kidnapping in a number of interlinked ways:

(i) raising awareness and breaking taboos around the crime;

(ii) creating new narratives about kidnapping that move beyond trauma and victim-blaming; 

(iii) providing practical assistance and guidance to those confronting this violent phenomenon.

“Kidnapping is a challenging topic to approach in terms of public engagement,” Conor explains. “However, this series has enabled us to fashion an engaging pathway through which to share counter-kidnapping tools and advice with Mexican citizens. We have been able to push the boundaries of how academic research can be communicated effectively and – hopefully – how it can also make a real difference.” Read more

Icebergs and floodlights

When the pandemic prevented her travelling to Antarctica, Anne Braakmann-Folgmann switched her climate research to Headingley Stadium!

Donor support has enabled Anne to study for a PhD at Leeds, her work focussing on using satellite data to track the movement and thickness of icebergs as they break away from Antarctica and drift in the Southern Ocean.

The fieldwork  is designed to explore how icebergs move on shorter timescales in between satellite measurements, which are typically a few days apart. It will help us to learn whether we can just assume they move in straight lines between each location we track from space, or the degree to which their movement is determined by ocean currents.

During Lockdown, Anne worked on refining her surveying techniques and testing her in-situ measurements, using observations of the Headingley floodlights and preparing the way for fieldwork once travel restrictions are eased.

The University’s expertise in climate research is world renowned. From the sweltering heat of the tropics, to the nithering cold of the poles, from the depths of the oceans to the heights of the atmosphere, Leeds scientists are providing clear insights into our changing world.

Masters Scholarships

Gifts to the University have opened a host of opportunities to students from less-privileged backgrounds, allowing them to study at Leeds and enjoy all the experiences offered by our vibrant campus life.

While much of this support is directed towards undergraduate study, gifts to provide Masters Scholarships allow the most able and determined students to take their study to the next level.

Almost a decade after graduating, Myles Harman is back at University studying for a Masters degree in Classics, with the support of a Footsteps Fund scholarship.

It fulfils held a long-held ambition: “Although I never stopped being interested in History and Classics, I thought that the financial barriers and tuition fees would preclude me from going any further,” says Myles, who is now hoping to progress to a PhD.

“For years I gave up on the idea of academia, but now I am getting to do what I love.”

A bird's eye view of campus

Filmed in 2019, this spectacular footage shows the University of Leeds campus as you have never seen it before.

This drone footage captures buildings old and new, from landmarks such as the Great Hall and Parkinson Building to newer additions including the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Building, the Laidlaw Library and the Western Campus – once the site of Leeds Grammar School.

How much of this is familiar from your own time on campus?

Campus Quiz – win a prize

Do you know the Brotherton Library from Bodington Hall, Lord Bragg from Lord Boyle?

Test your knowledge of the University, its campus and its alumni with this 20-question general knowledge quiz.

And you could even win a calendar. Yes, you read that right, an actual calendar!

Click here to have a go.

Our Christmas Message

And finally, 20 seconds of festive silliness from a bunch of people who are really missing being on campus.

Recorded in social isolation, here’s a very special festive video from the Alumni and Development Team, who have all been working from home since March!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!

Photo contest – win a prize

Whether it’s the dramatic red brick of the Great Hall, the Portland Stone landmark of the Parkinson Tower – or the simple beauty of St George’s Field – the University of Leeds campus is remarkably photogenic.

So, why not send in your favourite picture of campus, perhaps with a few words about why it is so memorable – and we’ll publish the best ones in the New Year?

You’ll also have the chance to win one of our exclusive 2021 University of Leeds calendars. Oh yes!

Please send your entries to by December 31 – including “Photo Contest” in the subject line.



Christmas on Campus

Well there won’t be snow in LS2 this Christmas time – at least it’s not looking that way.

So we’ve assembled some of our favourite images of Christmas on campus, along with plenty of snowy scenes from winters past, into this little montage which hopefully brings back some happy – and chilly – memories of your own time in Leeds.

Historic footage

Recently rediscovered in the University archives, this historic footage shows the 1949 Rag Parade staged by students of the University of Leeds.

In post-war Britain, where austerity and rationing were still a part of daily lives, the Rag Parade was an explosion of fun and frivolity on the streets of Leeds.

Vast crowds gathered in City Square, Victoria Gardens, Boar Lane and the Headrow for this colourful fundraising event, at which small donations raised thousands for local causes.

The Bedford Collection

Renowned art and antique dealer John Victor Bedford bequeathed his collection of rare books, manuscripts and objects to the University.

And now a financial gift from his Trustees is enabling us to make the most of this remarkable archive.

Gathered over almost half a century, the John Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History is an exceptional collection covering all aspects of the English home – interiors, furnishings, drapery, lighting and plasterwork, its architecture and its gardens, from the 17th century onwards.

It holds a host of decorative items while its 3,000 printed works include all the important volumes relating to the subject, many of them extremely rare. As a resource charting the changing tastes and styles across 300 years of British society, it is quite simply unique.

And as a little Christmas pastime, we’ve turned one of the items into this fun online jigsaw.

The Bedford Collection opens a host of possibilities for research and teaching across art, history and the social sciences. And a gift from the Trustees of Mr Bedford’s estate will make the use of the collection every bit as remarkable as its contents.

The donation will transform the library’s Special Collections Research Centre, putting items from the collection on permanent display and creating a modern, accessible and flexible space, where students and academics can examine rare books, historic objects and art – alongside rich digital archives both from Leeds and other collections.

Read more.

More jigsaws from our collections.

Learn more about the impact of legacies at the University of Leeds.

Cricketing culture

As England prepare for their first One Day International in South Africa today, a poem by Cultural Fellow Zaffar Kunial has been published in cricketing almanack Wisden.

Cultural Fellowships, funded by our donors, enable artists from a range of disciplines to develop their craft at Leeds. Oval Time is one of several of Zaffar’s works which celebrate his passion for the game:

I forget that cricket grounds exist in winter
seeing out snow and floating in fog.
I forget that the ground’s been there almost forever
and curling around it like a finger
pointing at the wrought-iron gasholder, a buried river
leaving a curve, the Effra.
A road like a brooch around an opal.
The Kennington Oval.

The O of a cambered surface that drains the water
like an upturned saucer, keeping the clay dry
in the middle. The filled O of the rolled field, its subtle
four-tone tartan. Green. Green. Green. And green.
The O of a crowd in the shade. The eternal
O of a roped boundary. The O

of a century. A double century. Bradman’s duck.
The O of their open mouths watching
a last innings. A last Test. Of not knowing
how many summers you’ll have left.
Of the tilted earth, of an arc, of orbiting the sun
around an invisible seam. The long-repeating

wide-brimmed O, as a river of white sunhats streams
in summer from the Vauxhall tube. The shaken
O of an unstopped urn, as a life’s dust is tipped over
the stumpless wicket, in winter, and atoms drift and turn
up towards the gods, towards the favourite seats
where days happened and stuck.

Time unfolds again and again from the crease. Fielders
stand with their well-ironed shadows. Grace
takes guard, where a bearded man he can’t see called Ali
takes a hat-trick. An event horizon where Richards
has more time at the crease, sees the ball a nano-
second sooner. Where twitchy Smith stares into history

and bobs like a bird, a wagtail or a dipper
half-sitting, half-standing as if stubbornly over
an egg. Sure as an egg timer. Over and over. The O
of a decommissioned gasholder, of a crowd’s open silence,
of a NO shouted at the non-striker’s end. The O
behind that held-up, white, skeletal glove.
The O of that palm, creased like a river.

In this video, former Cultural Fellow Helen Mort reads a poem which recalls her first visit to the campus.

Art gallery highlights

The University’s collections of art, rare books and antiques have been built over many years, thanks to the vision of many benefactors.

Long-standing donors the Burton family funded the stunning refurbishment and expansion of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery which, through exhibitions, educational programmes and public events, is making a growing contribution to the cultural life of the region. The Gallery also showcases our exceptional art collection, itself the fruit of more than a century of philanthropy.

In this series of three films, curator Layla Bloom examines three remarkable pieces of work from the collection: Whitelocks – a portrayal of the city’s most famous pub by Maurice de Sausmarez; The Art Class by Stanley Spencer – an inter-war painting packed with religious imagery, commissioned to represent an industrious Britain; Limestone Chasm – a dramatic textured interpretation of Gordale Scar near Malham by Katharine Holmes.

Akeelah Bertram

Our Meet the Researchers: Cultural Connections series is giving alumni an insight into the work of some of the most creative people on campus.

In this video, Akeelah Bertram, Leeds alumna and Gatenby Fellow in Contemporary Art, discusses how her interactive installation ‘Return’ brings art and history together to tell the story of diaspora across continents.

As an experienced, cross-disciplinary artist Akeelah has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. Her work blends light, sound, sculpture and interactions to create hybrid immersive environments that prioritise emotional experiences. Akeelah is interested in collective narratives, challenging perspectives and innovating modes of communication.

Find out more about Akeelah’s work and our upcoming alumni events. 

Restoring an ancient woodland

Over the past few years, Leeds researchers and local volunteers – along with support from individual donors and charities – have been working to restore an ancient Cumbrian woodland.

And over the next few days, your support on social media could take this project to a new level.

More than 80 years ago, Hardknott Forest was controversially planted with conifers, a species not native to the region. With many of these having been harvested for timber, the University is working to restore the 630-hectare plantation to its native habitats of oak and birch woodland, peatland and heather moorland.

And now the Belgian company Ecover, which manufactures ecologically-sound cleaning products, has pledged financial support to selected sustainability projects – and our restoration work at Hardknott has been nominated as a finalist in the process. Success would allow us to further the positive impact upon people, nature and climate in the area.

The popularity of the projects on social media will be taken into account as Ecover select their winners. Explore Hardknott Forest content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then comment using #UniversityofLeedsxEcover from 30 November 2020 to give Hardknott your support.

This magnificent roebuck is one of many which have been filmed using hidden cameras across the Hardknott estate. For more information, pictures and videos from this amazing restoration project, click here.

Career Mentoring

One of the most popular ways in which alumni give their time and expertise to the University is by offering career mentoring support to students, through a number of dedicated mentoring schemes.

Since 2017, more than 600 students have benefitted from having an alumni mentor via the Careers eMentoring scheme. This scheme matches undergraduate students with alumni working in their desired field of work. This scheme offers students an insider’s view of how to progress towards their career goals, and how to begin forming a network and gain confidence in building professional relationships.

Alex Mather (Civil Engineering with Project Management 2018) valued the opportunity to mentor a student one-to-one, because she could track how her mentee progressed towards their goals. As well as the reward of making a real difference to her student mentee, Alex (pictured) gained from the scheme in developing her time management skills. Becoming a mentor “has allowed me to broaden my own knowledge and network, so it has benefitted us both,” she said.

Find out more.

Winston's honour

Winston Liew (Law 2011) was nominated as a global finalist in the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards 2020.

Winston is founder and CEO of Addonlife, a company focused on developing new and under-performing places to trigger positive cultural shifts.

His light installation City-Gazing raises awareness of light pollution while rejuvenating urban spaces. Since being unveiled in Kuala Lumpur, it has been shown in Amsterdam, Singapore and Beijing.

Similarly influential, his design for the first city-wide pedestrian safety campaign in Penang was used as a framework for numerous interventions. His Smoke-Free Penang campaign improved the health of thousands, and gained praise from the UN.

His success has its roots at Montague Burton Hall in Leeds: “I’d just arrived in Leeds, and I’d begun to appreciate I was a global citizen. I got my first taste of different cultures through the campus community, and I carried a little journal everywhere I went to could capture all the new perspectives I was seeing.”

Winston was nominated in the Professional Achievement category, which recognises UK alumni who can demonstrate the impact and scale of their professional accomplishments. Read more.


Engaging with people in our city community has been a major feature of our Making a World of Difference campaign.

Funded by individual donors and with support from the Asda Foundation, our two IntoUniversity  centres are changing the face of learning in the inner city Leeds.

They are run by national charity IntoUniversity, whose template for success is well established. After-school classes, learning sessions in schools, and a close partnership with the University are encouraging young people to see a place in higher education as something they could achieve.

Since the first Leeds centre opened in 2014, more than 650 IntoUniversity Leeds students have progressed to University, while 350 staff and students have volunteered their time, inspiring young people to aim for a place at university.

In this video, young people explain the benefits of this life-changing outreach programme.

Global careers support

“Tap into your network, aim high and take chances.”

These were the top pieces of advice which Rebecca Edwards (English Literature & Japanese, 2011) gave to students during an alumni webinar on careers in the Asia-Pacific region. With a career that has stretched across Leeds, Nagasaki, Tokyo and London, Rebecca demonstrated that making sideways career moves, overcoming impostor syndrome and taking a leap can lead to an enriching career.

She tells students that “gravitating towards the things you’re passionate about will serve you really well.”

After being approached by several students on LinkedIn, Rebecca realised the need to offer guidance to students by volunteering. She found that studying Japanese created a supportive community. Leveraging other people’s experiences, as well as the contacts from Japanese Society friends, has enabled Rebecca to land her dream role. With travel options for current students limited by the pandemic, Rebecca knows that she in turn can make a difference to students by sharing her knowledge and experience.

To watch the webinar, click here.

Email to find out how you can support student careers.