The first ever student to achieve a University of Stirling postgraduate degree has returned to campus and congratulated its 100,000th graduate.
Dr Hazel Sommerville, 77 – one of six people who graduated in 1968, a year after the university opened – offered her best wishes to Baijun Liu, 28, from Liaoning Province, China, who is one of more than 1,400 to graduate from Stirling this week.
Dr Somerville joined fellow alumni Alastair Gentleman, Sue Roberts and Lorn and Mary MacIntyre – who were also among some of the first to graduate from Stirling – to acknowledge the occasion.
Ms Liu graduated with a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies, having moved to Stirling from Shanghai in February 2021.
She said: “I feel excited and very fortunate to have been named the 100,000th graduate.
“I studied copyright trading for my undergraduate degree, and there are not many universities that offer publishing – I was happy that Stirling does.
“I enjoyed online lessons because, as English isn’t my first language, it meant I could watch tutorials and videos a few times.
“Although we didn’t have as many opportunities for offline practical activities due to Covid, the tutors encouraged us to participate in online book fair events and keep up with industry developments.”
Reflecting on her time in Stirling, the self-confessed Scotch whisky lover added: “This year I focused on my studies, but I did go to Highlands and to the Isle of Skye, which was beautiful.
“I’m living in Edinburgh now and looking for a job in publishing. Eventually I’d like to work in international contract trading, and even have my own publishing house one day.”
Dr Sommerville, of Doonfoot, Ayrshire, completed one of two Masters programmes offered at the time – an MSc in Mathematical Psychology, the other being an MSc in Technological Economics.
Dr Sommerville said: “I was delighted to meet Baijun and I wish her all the best for the future.
“To all the 2021 graduates I would say ‘Carpe diem’. Grasp opportunities as they come along and don’t shy away from challenges.”
She added: “There were only four of us on my course, and slightly more than 200 altogether on campus – staff and students – so everyone socialised together.
“Computers and photocopiers were very new back then – you had to punch information on to cards and feed them into a computer.
“We wrote essays by hand and relied on books – we had access to all of Scotland’s university libraries, so I used to travel to Glasgow and Strathclyde sometimes.
“The 1968 graduation ceremony was held in Pathfoot Coffee Lounge – it was very special and intimate, with excellent food and wine.
“There was all the pomp and circumstance of graduation but with only six graduates.”
Today, the university has a diverse student population of more than 14,000, with 120 nationalities represented on campus, and degree course partnerships in Oman, Singapore, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
University archivist Karl Magee said: “When the university opened, all activity, academic and social, took place in the Pathfoot building, with the rest of the campus still to be developed.
“In that first year, 195 students studied a range of subjects – the most popular being sociology, psychology and English.
“It’s amazing to think that today the university is celebrating its 100,000th graduate.”