Skip to content

Toggle service links

From first black graduate of The Open University to honorary doctorate

“Education took me out of poverty,” says Elaine Sihera, the first black graduate of The Open University who has now been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the university at a degree ceremony in London.

Self belief powered Elaine from poverty to pioneer

Elaine graduated from the OU at the age of 28 and went on to Cambridge University, then into industry and public service. The award recognises her exceptional contribution to education and culture, as Elaine is a leading writer, sociologist and speaker on diversity and empowerment – despite living with a life-threatening illness. In her acceptance speech, she said:

“I was brought up in poverty in Jamaica in the sixties, with a father who didn’t want girls, only boys. But my positivity, dreams, and strong belief in myself propelled me forward in a way I never dreamt possible. After all, if someone had told me then, that I would go to England, get a degree from a pioneering university, and the opportunity to attend Cambridge University, I would have laughed at them in disbelief.”

At the forefront of diversity issues

A pioneer in many ways, Elaine is at the forefront of diversity issues, presenting the first Diversity Lecture in the House of Commons, and founding both the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Achievement Awards. Elaine was the first Black woman in the UK to own a national magazine and has enjoyed a successful career spanning education, diversity, personal development and leadership.

Elaine is a huge advocate for self-belief and motivation, and has authored four books on lifestyle issues, including The Essential Guide to Confidence and Managing the Diversity Maze. Here, she speaks of the need for everyone to have self-belief:

Elaine concludes: “The Open University changed my life completely, in ways too magical to comprehend. It gave me the opportunity to study soon after having my first child, while holding down a full time job, with the added complication of my ex-husband service on an RAF posting abroad…I am grateful to the OU for valuing my contributions, nurturing my talents, and recognising my achievements in the most awesome way possible.”

About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

Comments are closed.