UCEM graduates come together to celebrate achievements at December 2023 ceremony

Posted on: 7 December, 2023

On Friday 1 and Saturday 2 December, 341 graduates celebrated their achievements at UCEM’s 2023 Winter graduation.

This year’s event, which took place at Reading Town Hall, was split across three ceremonies and also welcomed 1,040 guests alongside the graduates.

Amid the beginning of the festive season, spirits were high across both days of the event as guests, graduates and academics mingled and posed for photographs ahead of the ceremony.

As UCEM Vice Chancellor Ashley Wheaton commented:

“What an extraordinary group of people you are. You’ve achieved against the backdrop of some very challenging years during your study, and to have succeeded on the back of those challenges is remarkable. I’m particularly humbled by your collective achievements. Well done.”

Friday 1 December

The first ceremony took place on Friday afternoon. This ceremony was chaired by Dr Stephen Jackson, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. As Dr Jackson commented in his opening speech:

“We are here to acknowledge the hard work of our students. It’s wonderful to see so many of you today, and congratulations to you all.

“Welcome also to the employers, partners, parents, children and friends, who have come today to celebrate our graduates. Significant achievements are rarely made by individuals alone but working together. We acknowledge and thank you for your support.”

Alongside the raft of students who received their certificates, five students received special prizes for their academic efforts:

  • Eoin Bollard – Harold Crowter Prize Master of Science Quantity Surveying
  • Saara Tuulikki Saloranta – Master of Science Real Estate
  • William Richard Lawrence – Bachelor of Science Quantity Surveying
  • Kate Sarah Cooke – Bachelor of Science Building Surveying
  • Alexander George Will – Master of Science Building Surveying

There were also several recipients of honorary degrees and fellowships, who were recognised for their outstanding contributions to the built environment and education sectors:

Dr Bola Abisogun OBE

Founder and CEO at Digital Twin Skills Academy CIC

Awarded Honorary MBA

After the ceremony, Dr Abisogun tweeted: “#Thankyou I’m humbled and grateful. To all the #graduates of 2023 and beyond please find link below to the #DCS #Mentoring #Programme the first of its kind in the UK by the first @ricsnews #bame #network. we are Diversecity surveyors, an honorary associate member of @cictweet.”


Clare Johnson MBE

Deputy Head of Property Profession at VOA

Named Honorary Fellow

Clare commented: “I am absolutely thrilled to receive the UCEM Honorary Fellowship. Thank you to the UCEM for this recognition, and for your support in developing our people over the years.

“Congratulations to everyone who is graduating today – there’s never been a more exciting time to embark on a career in the built environment. Keep learning, make the most of all the opportunities afforded to you and enjoy it. Good luck!”

Sandi Rhys Jones, OBE, FCIOB

President at CIOB

Awarded Honorary Doctorate

Sandi commented: “It is a great pleasure to accept this honour. Educating and training people from all walks of life to deliver the built environment that everyone needs is as important now as it was in 1918. To the graduands sharing this special day, congratulations to you all. Carry forward the origins and ethos of UCEM and stay inclusive, focused and committed – and challenge when necessary.”

John Gellatly

CIO Global Real Estate at Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC)

Named Honorary Fellow

In his speech, John commented: “I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the board at UCEM whilst so much has happened in this institution. It is now over 100 years old – not many institutions can say that – and it has become a university in its own right. This is an institution for the 21st century, and you should take it out there and extol it to everybody.”

Wing Cheung Dennis Wong

CEO and Director of Pruden Holdings Limited and Prudential Surveyors International Ltd.

Named Honorary Fellow

As Dennis commented in his speech: “First and foremost, I want to extend my gratitude. It is truly an honor to join this distinguished list of individuals.

“Undoubtedly, studying and working at the same time is not an easy task – one must strike a perfect balance and leave room for other aspects of life. However, this should not discourage or hinder anyone from realising their dreams. The fact that so many of you are here today is a testament to your ability to manage these demands exceptionally well, and my heartiest congratulations to each and every one of you.”

Joining the above recipients and the academic procession as the ceremony’s guest speaker on Friday was Fred Mills, who was awarded an honorary master’s degree at last year’s ceremony.

Fred Mills

Founder of B1M

Guest speaker

Fred commented: “Occasions like this are always a fantastic celebration of the students. It’s great to see so much new talent coming into the sector as we desperately need it – 41% of the construction workforce is due to retire by 2031, which is a serious problem for this industry.

“They’ve got an exciting career ahead… it’s going to be challenging and demanding because this industry has never faced the kind of challenges it’s facing right now.

“I just wish I was younger, because I’d like to be there alongside them.”

Saturday 2 December

Two ceremonies were held on Saturday 2 December. Both were opened by Amanda Clack, Chair of the Board of Trustees. As Amanda commented whilst opening the proceedings on Saturday:

“It’s a great honour to have you, your friends and your families here with us to acknowledge and celebrate all you have achieved. Graduation is without doubt one of the most important events of the university calendar – a day when we recognise and applaud the achievements of our graduates and share in their success.”

In Saturday’s second ceremony, three students received awards for their academic performance:

  • Reece Wilkinson – Chapman Adkin
  • Abigail Victoria Ayley – Philip Rose Prize Bachelor of Science Real Estate
  • Arran Gill – Bachelor of Science Construction Management

There were also three recipients of honorary awards on Saturday, two of whom gave guest speeches as part of the ceremonies:

Dame Judith Hackitt

Non-Executive Director at HS2

Awarded Honorary Doctorate, guest speaker

As Judith commented in her speech: “I have to say that I feel somewhat envious of all of you who are graduating today as you start out on your careers. There has never been a more exciting or more challenging time to be following you chosen path into estates management.

“Our planet, our climate, our infrastructure, the people who will live and work in the buildings you are involved with need all of you to put your hearts and souls into finding real solutions which will deliver benefit to all of society.”

Katie Kopec

International Director at JLL

Awarded Honorary MBA, guest speaker

As Katie discussed in her speech: “The built environment sector is a contributor to 25% of the total UK carbon footprint and is globally responsible for 35% of energy consumption, 38% of energy related carbon emissions and 50% of resource consumption. The sector is expected to double in total footprint by 2060. Therefore, the next decade of climate action is crucial.

“To pursue efforts to stay below 1.5℃ to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change, we need to reduce 45% of global emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“This is your moment – you will have learnt more than I but we have no choice anymore and we will be relying on you all to make a difference!”

Paul Morris

Chief Executive of LandAid

Awarded Honorary MBA

Upon receiving his award, Paul commented: “Today is about celebrating the extraordinary talent of a new generation of property professionals.

“Our industry needs you. We need you to help design, develop, finance, manage, and maintain our built environment – sustainably.

“But we need you to recognise too that just as we invest in places, so we must invest in people – and especially those who are most marginalised and most excluded.”