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(Photo courtesy of Birmingham City University)

Lenny Henry: look for opportunities in times of great change

Sir Lenny Henry spoke to graduating students in his first graduation ceremony as Chancellor of Birmingham City University

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 07, 2017 | People

Sir Lenny Henry has presided over his first graduation ceremony as Chancellor of Birmingham City University.

Wearing ceremonial robes, the actor, writer, comedian and charitable campaigner addressed more than a thousand graduands from the University’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at a ceremony in Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

We live in uncertain political times, but in moments of great change, there are always opportunities I hope that the skills, capabilities and knowledge with which you are all now equipped will enable you to seize on these opportunities - Sir Lenny Henry, Chancellor of Birmingham City University

In his inaugural graduation speech, Sir Lenny Henry said:

“We live in uncertain political times, but in moments of great change, there are always opportunities. I hope that the skills, capabilities and knowledge with which you are all now equipped will enable you to seize on these opportunities; to create new jobs, new types of jobs and to build a new future for all of us, as your career and personal development goes forward. This really is your time – so go ahead and change it.”

Almost 4,000 students will graduate from Birmingham City University this week, with honorary doctorates being awarded to prestigious figures including international violinist, Tasmin Little; founder and CEO of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz; and acclaimed barrister, Sallie Bennett-Jenkins.

During his speech to the graduating class of 2017 on 24th July, Sir Lenny Henry also said:

“Each and every one of you graduating today has shown dedication and personal commitment to be here. You stand at the threshold of the next chapter of your lives, and what a fantastic way to begin. You should be proud of what you have achieved and you should be proud of Birmingham City University.

“I know how hard you have had to work because I have been there myself – the late nights, the early mornings and three thousand episodes of ‘Bargain Hunt’.”

Sir Lenny Henry also presided over the graduation ceremony for students from the University’s Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences on 25th July.

As Chancellor, the Dudley-born star has made several visits to the University’s City Centre Campus where he has seen for himself how the institution opens doors to the creative arts for young people from a range of backgrounds. 

Earlier this month, Sir Lenny launched a new networking group for the University in London. ‘BCU in London’ is open to graduates of the University – from senior leaders and up-and-coming professionals – who are based or have business interests in the capital.

The Birmingham City University student body is one of the most diverse in the UK, with over 45% of its students from low income households and forty-eight% from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and from September 2017, Birmingham City University will offer Europe’s first Black Studies degree.

Education is a right, not an accident of birth - Sir Lenny Henry in his inaugural speech as Chancellor of Birmingham City University in November 2016

Sir Lenny was installed as Chancellor of Birmingham City University in November 2016 when he stressed that “education is a right, not an accident of birth” in his inaugural speech. 

The Chancellor is the ceremonial figurehead of the University and has an important ambassadorial role, working with senior leaders to raise the University’s profile and advance its core values and interests locally, nationally and internationally.

In particular, Sir Lenny has taken on the role of Chancellor to pursue three passions; Birmingham and the West Midlands, the creative arts and giving life changing opportunities to young people from a wide range of backgrounds.

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