The University of Sunderland’s first in-person graduation ceremonies in two years got underway today.

Superstar singer and University Chancellor, Emeli Sandé’s first duty was to make former Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Estelle Morris, a Pro-Chancellor.

The ceremonies, which will be held over the next three days at the Stadium of Light, have not taken place in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Songwriter Emeli was on hand to reintroduce Estelle – the Baroness of Yardley – who has ties with the University going back many years.

Estelle said: “My relationship with the University, and the city, started around 2001 when I was invited to visit by the University’s then Chancellor, Lord David Puttnam.”

The politician was then made Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University, a role she held between 2005 and 2009.

Estelle said: “During that time, I would visit the city every other week, forming links, making friends, and supporting the University in its efforts.

“The bonds I made during that time remain to this day, so it is a real pleasure to be coming back to receive this honour again from the University.”

Estelle was officially sworn in as part of the University’s graduation ceremonies which are held this week at the home of SAFC.

Prior, and during, her time as a politician, Estelle spent 18 years working in an inner-city, multi-cultural school in Coventry.

It was during these years that she would learn and experience the diverse side of the education system that would go on to form many of her beliefs and political policies.

She was elected to Parliament in 1992 for Birmingham Yardley, gaining the seat from the Conservatives with a majority of only 162.

It would be the beginning of a long political career.

Estelle became a minister in the Department for Education and Employment in 1997 and was promoted to Secretary of State for Education and Skills in 2001 – the first former comprehensive school teacher to have the position.

Along with colleagues, the impact of Estelle’s work in reforming the education system during this time can still be felt today.

On 13 May 2005 it was announced that the MP would be created a life peer, and she was conferred as Baroness Morris of Yardley.

Estelle said: “Coming back to Sunderland is always a pleasure, I truly appreciate how the University is at the beating heart of city life; how it is linked to the local authority, the football club, and the people themselves.”