Sheila Hancock talks of pride in young people as she steps down from University of Portsmouth role

SPEECH The Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth Sheila Hancock, who is standing down this year. Picture: Malcolm Wells (112473-7283)
SPEECH The Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth Sheila Hancock, who is standing down this year. Picture: Malcolm Wells (112473-7283)

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SHE has led scores of graduation ceremonies and worked hard to raise the profile of the University of Portsmouth.

Now, as Sheila Hancock CBE comes to the end of her five-year term as chancellor of the university, she has spoke of her pride in young people.

And today the 79-year-old will give her final set of speeches to delighted law, history, marketing, human resources and literature graduates at Portsmouth Guildhall.

During her post Sheila was influential in modernising the university’s graduation ceremonies and she lobbied the prime minister to recruit more international students.

Sheila, who is an actress and author, said: ‘Being the chancellor has been a real learning curve.

‘I left school when I was 15 and never went to university, so I had a feeling of trepidation about taking on the role.

‘But being a chancellor is what you make of it – I’ve tried to be as active and as involved with the students as possible.

‘I’ve worked with the students’ union and I’ve also visited schools in the area.

‘I have an incredible amount of faith in young people.

‘I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m 80 next year so it’s getting a bit gruelling. I believe in going to all the graduation ceremonies because everyone deserves a send-off.

‘Things have changed quite a bit in the five years I’ve been here.

‘Computers and social networking have really taken off.

‘Despite the rise in tuition fees I still believe that everyone should experience university education.

‘Being at university gives you life skills.’

Sheila doesn’t plan to put her feet up yet.

She’s writing a novel which has been years in the making and later in the year she will be involved in the making of the BBC documentary on the Bronte sisters.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were 19th century novelists from Yorkshire.

Broadcaster and comedian Sandi Toksvig will be unveiled as the University of Portsmouth’s new chancellor later in the year.

Sheila said: ‘Leisure has never been in my nature.

‘I’ve never been one to sit in the sun and do nothing. It’s important to keep active for as long as you can and keep your brain refreshed.’

Architecture student Lohesh Gupta, 22, was moved by Sheila’s speech at his graduation ceremony yesterday.

She encouraged students to become politically active and care about global issues.

Mr Gupta, who is from India, said: ‘She is a real inspiration and a lovely person.

‘Her words of encouragement meant a lot to me. It was the best part of the ceremony.’