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First OU in Scotland post-COVID graduation

Elaine C. Smith

Today (20 June), The Open University in Scotland celebrated its outstanding students with its first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow was alive with celebration as 600 students joined family and friends to collect their qualifications.

Honorary degrees of Doctor of the University were also presented to four individuals recognising their significant contributions to society and culture:  journalist and equal pay advocate, Carrie Gracie; disability campaigner, Tressa Burke; social entrepreneur, Josh Littlejohn and one of Scotland’s most recognisable and beloved actors, Elaine C. Smith.

Director of the OU in Scotland, Susan Stewart, commented: “The Open University in Scotland is here to help support people achieve their ambition. Most of our students fit their study in along with family, work, caring and all sorts of other responsibilities. Over the last few years, they also faced the pressures of the Covid pandemic alongside that, which makes today’s celebrations particularly special.

“The OU was founded on the principle that higher education should be open to everyone, regardless of age, income, geography and background. I’m delighted to see that half of those graduating today are the first in their family to study at Higher Education level.

“Congratulations to everyone and thank you for choosing the OU to make your study dreams come true – we’re very proud of you all.”

Elaine C Smith was presented with an Honorary Doctorate for her exceptional contribution to the arts throughout her long and distinguished career. She said: 

“I’m absolutely thrilled and humbled to be honoured in this way by a truly wonderful and inspirational institution. 

“I have been so fortunate in my own life and career to have been inspired by so many amazing women and men who have blazed a trail for all who have come behind. I hope in some small way I have, and will continue to do, the same for others, especially women. 

“The Open University works so hard to inspire and so much more every single day and for that we should all be truly grateful.”

Journalist, author and equal pay advocate, Carrie Gracie received an Honorary Doctorate for her contribution to journalism and her work towards achieving fairer pay for women. 

Carrie Gracie commented: “I've always had huge admiration for The Open University, and I know from personal experience how hard it is to study for a degree alongside making a living and other commitments, so I'm thrilled to have the chance to stand alongside OU graduates and celebrate how awesome they are.”

Tressa Burke was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for her work towards improving access to education for disabled people and her passionate commitment to social inclusion, social justice and public services.

Tressa Burke commented: “I am sincerely honoured to be receiving recognition from The Open University because it is such a unique and exceptional institution, sharing Glasgow Disability Alliance’s passion for tackling inequalities and injustice and making learning accessible for all. 

“Both organisations are mission driven and share an ethos of being committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and to tackling barriers which prevent disadvantaged people from accessing learning. By making learning accessible, both GDA and the OU ensure that those facing inequalities are supported to fulfil their potential.

“I’ve seen from many disabled people that accessing learning is transformational so I couldn’t be prouder to become part of the OU family which changes people’s lives in this way every day.”

Josh Littlejohn MBE received an Honorary Doctorate in honor of his determination to eradicate homelessness in Scotland and beyond.

Josh Littlejohn MBE said: “I’m proud and grateful to accept an Honorary Degree from The Open University in recognition of the work Social Bite has done to support some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 

“It’s testament to the great work of our whole team that we’ve been able to achieve so much already towards our mission to end homelessness and I’m passionate about continuing our work across the UK in the coming years.

“I admire the way in which The Open University provides people the opportunity to pick up studies at different stages in their lives and I want to congratulate all the other graduates. It’s a pleasure to share this special day with them.”

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