UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Graduation 2023: Celebrating our Students’ Success

12 September 2023

Honorary degree recipient Richard Blair, son of English novelist George Orwell, and SSEES graduate Naomi Barrett-Thoburn

On a sunny Thursday, 7th September, around 200 excited graduates gathered in the Royal Festival Hall to obtain their well-deserved degree certificates at the SSEES graduation – a multinational event that brought people together from around the world. This special occasion was a testament to the hard work and dedication of our exceptional students and staff. 

The celebrations began earlier in the day with a number of SSEES students and their families enjoying a complimentary brunch in the cheerfully decorated school’s common room. Here, the atmosphere was full of excitement as students seized the opportunity to connect with their peers, families, academics and professional services staff. 

Before it was time to set off for Royal Festival Hall, the legendary Dr Pete Duncan, Honorary Associate Professor at SSEES, graced the occasion with his presence. He extended his congratulations to all the soon-to-be-graduates and delivered an inspiring talk on the work of the SSEES Alumni Association. Dr Duncan passionately urged students to join the group, emphasising the wealth of opportunities that awaited them, from invaluable networking opportunities and insightful talks from high calibre connections.  

The ceremony was attended by SSEES staff, including Dr Snejana Tempest who commented: “It was a very difficult road for these students, but to see them so jubilant and happy at the end of that road was joyful.”

Dr Christian Emery, Associate Professor (Teaching) in International Politics at SSEES said: "As a Departmental Tutor, this occasion has particular emotional resonance because I know how many of the students have overcome huge personal obstacles on the way to taking the stage to receive their degrees. I also know that more than a few thought they wouldn’t make this day, but they never gave up, and made it they did! I’m as proud of their resilience as I am of their academic achievements. Both will stand them in very good stead for the next chapter of their lives. Congratulations to all."

As part of the ceremony, an Honorary degree was conferred upon Richard Blair, the son of the renowned English novelist, George Orwell (pictured above with SSEES graduate Naomi Barrett-Thoburn). In 2021, a collection of previously undiscovered letters written by George Orwell was donated to the Orwell Archive at UCL by Mr Blair, who ensures that his father’s legacy continues through the Orwell Society. You can browse the UCL Orwell archive here

Graduate Anton Korchagin, BA History, Politics and Economics, and former President of the UCL Ukrainian Society delivered an inspiring speech that touched on the challenges that this graduating cohort had seen, including wars and pandemics, urging his fellow students ‘not to take education for granted’. 

SSEES Graduate Thys Millas, his grandparents and SSEES lecturer, Dr Snejana Tempest

Proud SSEES graduate Thys Millan, celebrated a momentous day in London. His grandparents travelled all the way from the USA to mark this special occasion, joining him alongside SSEES lecturer, Dr Snejana Tempest. His sister, a UCL politics student, also graduated just four hours later.

As his first public occasion as the new Director of SSEES, Professor Richard Mole, delivered an eloquent speech that can be watched here. If you want to relive the ceremony, click here to catch up on all the highlights of the day.

Register to join the SSEES Alumni Association to stay connected with the latest news and events and join a vibrant international community of SSEES alumni. You can also connect with SSEES on LinkedIn.