Two people celebrate graduation, one in cap and gown.

Graduation Week: ‘Resilient’ alumni finally get the celebration they deserve

Friday marked the end of the long-awaited graduation week for our 2020 graduates.

More than 1,000 students and their families finally got to celebrate their graduation face-to-face this week after waiting a year to mark the occasion due to the pandemic

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Braisby said graduates had ‘shown great resilience’.

He added: “I am extremely proud of how all our students navigated the many challenges of the pandemic over the past 18 months, especially those who had to complete their degree when government restrictions prevented them from accessing our campuses last year.

“It has been wonderful this week to join our 2020 graduates and their families in celebrating their achievements. I am also very grateful to all the teams across the university who have worked hard to make this week a success.”

There were nine ceremonies across the week with speeches from valedictorians, chosen by academic staff in each school. Recognised for their dedication and learning while at BNU, our valedictorians for the Class of 2020 were:

  • Victoria Moss Hobbs - Diploma of Higher Education Operating Department Practice
  • Stephen Brennan - BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult) with NMC Registration
  • Megan Dollery - BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult) with NMC Registration
  • Lewis Taylor - BA (Hons) Film and Television Production with Foundation Year
  • Chimwemwe Sukali - BSc (Hons) Professional Practice (Healthcare)
  • Zara Parveen - BSc (Hons) Accounting and Finance
  • Matthew Enfield - BSc (Hons) Computing
  • Claire Barrett - BA (Hons) Dance and Performance
  • Josh Flood - BA (Hons) Film and Television Production
  • Fareeha Ahmed - Master of Science International Aviation Regulation and Law


Here is what our Valedictorians had to say:

Chimwemwe Sukali, was recognised by her lecturers for her dedication to her studies while she worked on the frontline dealing with the catastrophic impact on the NHS in the ‘first wave’ of the pandemic. Chim said: “When l was told that l would make a speech, l cannot lie, l was frightened and overwhelmed but then l remembered that l was a BNU student and we are taught and trained not to run away from responsibilities. l gave my speech with much more confidence than l could have if l had not walked through the corridors of this great institution. It has been a rewarding journey and a journey that has shaped and moulded me and my colleagues into what we are today.”

Chimwemwe Sukali in graduation cap and gown

Matthew Enfield: “I gained enough experience and knowledge at BNU to really start my career. I worked on a placement inbetween year two and three of university and it gave me a wealth of knowledge in terms of industrial experience; and I would not have been able to get the role as a Web Developer today without that experience.  It was an incredible experience working alongside lecturer Jon Jackson as a software developer – using real world and industry recommended practices.”

Matthew Enfield in graduation cap and gown

Claire Barrett: “The three years of blood, sweat and tears - quite literally on the dance course - were entirely worth it.  Since leaving University last year, I have been accepted onto the books of a performance agency, as well as retaining my fitness and working multiple jobs; all while putting plans in place for how I can utilise my skills for my future career. I would like to thank my friends and family for the upmost support throughout my three years at BNU; though my biggest thanks go to my wonderful Mum and my boyfriend, Harrison, for their continued love and encouragement from day one. I am honoured to be chosen as valedictorian and wish all of my fellow graduates luck in the future.” 

A headshot of Claire Barrett facing camera

Megan Dollery: “It makes me proud to say I studied at BNU. As the system in Ireland is completely different for entry to university, I didn’t get enough points in my leaving cert to start nursing. But BNU offered me an interview where I could demonstrate my passion and enthusiasm in person. BNU gave students like me the opportunity to demonstrate themselves and not just on a piece of paper. They saw me for who I was, a happy, enthusiastic, energetic and passionate girl who was deserving of an opportunity to prove she had it in her to become a nurse, and now go on give the valedictorian speech!”

Megan Dollery in Buckinghamshire New University student nurse uniform

Victoria Moss Hobbs – “I want to say how proud I am of everyone who has had to study and teach though out the pandemic. It has been a first experience for everyone, but it has been handled well by all and I just wanted to thank the lecturers for giving us all their support when they have had it just as hard in their own lives but also having to look after 60 other people’s problems!”

Stephen Brennan – “BNU has helped me kickstart my career, by showing continued support needed to develop throughout the degree. Academically it pushed me to want to learn and improve my skills…and also introduced me to the woman of my dreams and tomorrow we start our new adventure of moving into our new home. I love you Willow!”

Lewis Taylor – “Bucks will forever be immortalized in my mind as a place where I shared countless laughs with friends, the highs, lows and inspiring comradery of union sports, all night study sessions in the library and of course the many memorable nights out. This University gave me the confidence and environment to try new things, meet new people and find out what I was capable of.”

Zara Parveen – “I am proud to be standing here today talking about my experiences at BNU because it has been such a positive and instructive experience and I would recommend the university to anyone.  I am proud of my results and know this has been a collaborative experience between myself and the university.”

Josh Flood – “The most surprising part about my time at BNU was that autonomous learning was supported and encouraged. This enhanced my confidence and motivation and led to more effective learning. An example of this is that we were trusted in making a programme for real clients, as students, not industry professionals. I experienced this as a safe environment where mistakes could and would be made, with no judgement, which ultimately contributed to developing my skills and learning.”

Fareeha Ahmed – “While our third year was sadly cut short and we weren’t able to have our final goodbye classes, in some way, the pandemic actually managed to bring our classes closer together as we quickly adapted to online learning and having fun with backgrounds on Microsoft Teams. While it was not easy, I can proudly say that everyone showed such strong resilience and determination to graduate as the Class of 2020!”


The Class of 2021 will be celebrating their graduation ceremonies in October.

Fareeha Ahmed in graduation cap and gown, holding a picture frame with the words 'Congratulations class of 2020'