Alumni in Malaysia help new students on their way to Bristol

The Malaysia alumni network and the Malaysian and Singaporean Student Association (MSSA) joined forces this August to give some of Bristol’s newest students the best send-off to Bristol.

Our alumni have a lot of insight, practical advice and plenty of stories to share with the next generation of students, and we’re delighted to see this in action in Malaysia.

Kindly hosted at Radiant Retreats in the highlands outside the city by Hanis Harun (LLB 1994, MBA 1995), CEO of Radiant Group in Kuala Lumpur, the weekend of events introduced the incoming 2019-20 cohort with current students and alumni over a series of orientation activities.

The meet-up aims to support new students with their adjustment to life in a new city and unfamiliar country and help build a network of familiar faces and connections that will no doubt grow over the years ahead.

Alumni were also on hand to share how their time at Bristol shaped their careers and pass on useful tips on making the most out of the opportunities Bristol can offer.

The event also united MSSA Committee members past and present, sharing the latest news and best practice from over the years of one of Bristol’s largest student societies (pictured from L – R: Farah, current VP, Zaki, VP 1991-92 and Brian, VP 2015-16).

“The Bristol alumni is a close and strong network in Malaysia, and we wanted the new students to know we would be there for them now and into the future” – Ahmad Zaki Zahid, LLB 1994.

Find out more about our international alumni networks and contact if you’d like to get involved.




Celebrate 10 years of student achievement with the Bristol PLUS Awards

The Bristol PLUS Awards lunched in 2009 to reward students for developing skills through extracurricular activity and articulate their value to employers.  Although these original principles are unchanged, activity and engagement has evolved, with just 165 completers in the first year, to over 1000 more recently. 

2019-20 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Bristol PLUS and Outstanding Awards and we are inviting all past award alumni to celebrate with us! Each cohort of our Award alumni are part of this growing success, as we evaluate student feedback to make continuous improvements to the credibility and value of the Awards. We are proud of the inclusive and accessible nature of the Awards and the variety of projects students get recognition for – from volunteering at Oxfam to completing an internship at a city firm, leading a sports club or learning a language.

While employability has been at the heart of the Awards, the personal benefits are vast. Students report improved confidence, feeling empowered to make decisions about their future and realising their potential.

The Bristol PLUS Award has become an effective way to build up confidence. It encouraged me to enrich my life experiences while at university. It is not only about improving employability, but also about truly maximising wellbeing. – 2nd year Mechanical Engineering (PhD)

Students completing this fully extracurricular Award now make up around 4% of the university population, but we have ambitions to reach more. If you completed the Award in the past 10 years we would love to hear about what you are doing now. Wherever you are in the world, your story could inspire the next generation. Or perhaps you work in a business that could benefit from engaging with the University and like-minded proactive students like you once were. To find out more, please email for more info, or read this recent blog.

Bristol Volunteers share their stories with the next generation of students

Many thanks to alumni Harri Davies (LLB 2013) and Tom Rowland (BSc 2012) were able to join us for the University of Bristol undergraduate open day in June, to speak to, and inspire our prospective students.

We are very grateful to our Bristol Volunteers who offer their time and expertise to support events for those considering Bristol. Students very much value the opportunity and it gives those considering a degree at Bristol a clear picture of how we can support their career aspirations and enables them to see the variety of opportunity open to them after graduation.

Delighted to have been invited to speak to six form applicants at the University of Bristol Open Day. Really impressed with the questions about my epic time at Bristol and during my year abroad in Hong Kong.

Harri Davies (LLB 2013), Opportunities Manager, Aspiring Solicitors


If you would like to share your career story with prospective students and support the University of Bristol in this way, please get in touch-


Students and alumni connect at Bristol Career Insights 2019

A big thank you to our Bristol Volunteers for giving their time, experience and expertise to our final year students and recent graduates, at our latest Bristol Career Insights events. Alumni shared their career stories and experiences to help our recent graduates take positive next steps in their careers.

We welcomed alumni from a number of different industries to speak to current students and recent graduates about their next steps – from securing a career in the city to setting up their own business; across the arts, legal, technology, finance and many more!

Below, read recent graduate and alumni speaker experiences of the events. You can also view pictures of these events by visiting the University of Bristol alumni and friends Flickr page.

I met a range of interesting people, professional alumni in positions/roles that I wouldn’t usually have access to or think about engaging with. But it’s amazing what great advice you can glean when you go along and ask for it.”

Recent graduate: Joel Willcocks (BSc 2018), Service Executive at Appear Here




“I was glad to have the opportunity to give something back to the University of Bristol, which has benefited me greatly in my career. It was also nice to have an opportunity to reflect on my own work philosophy in the hope of having something worthwhile to share with recent Bristol graduates.”

Alumni speaker: Patrick Raleigh (BSc 2003), Director of Country Risk at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

We will be running our next Bristol Career Insights events in Autumn 2019. If you would like to be involved, please contact

Thank you, Bristol Volunteers!

Volunteers Reception, Bill Brown Suite, University of Bristol

Last month our community of Bristol Volunteers joined us for our first evening Bristol Volunteers Reception. The event was an opportunity to celebrate our volunteers and say thank you for their amazing work, as well as share stories of their volunteering experience. Our volunteers give their time and expertise as mentors, advisors, speakers, organisers and much more. The support of our volunteers has a huge impact for our students, the alumni community and the University, and we are incredibly grateful for their contributions. Thank you to all those who attended and everyone who has given their time to support the University this year.

We were delighted to hear from Leslie Stephens (BSc 1975), who volunteers on our US Foundation Board and travelled from New York to join us. John Reeve (BSc 1982), who is a mentor on our Bristol Mentors programme, also attended the evening and shared his experience of taking part and supporting a current student at Bristol. Julia Wathen (BSc 1972), who volunteers on the London Branch Committee, shared her personal involvement with the Bristol community. Julia commented on the strength of the alumni network, thanks to the hard work and commitment of our volunteers, and her sentiments resonated with all in the room.

Below are the winners of our ‘Bristol Volunteers Thank You Draw’. If you’re interested in becoming part of the Bristol Volunteers community, you can find out more about opportunities to get involved here on our webpage. 

Why I am a Bristol Volunteer?

“I have been organising or coordinating an annual reunion of Alumni living in Eastern Canada for about 15 years. I enjoy doing this because it has brought me a wonderful group of friends, who have become close because of our shared beginnings. Having those formative years of our lives in common at Bristol gives us endless conversation topics, and several of the group have been back to Bristol and share their visits with us. We are all very grateful for the start in life that Bristol gave us.”

Heather Proctor BSc 1964, Eastern Canada Network Leader


I thought volunteering was about giving back, spending time and listening and helping…But it’s so much more. I think I learn more than the students. I think I’m back in my learning zone. I’m being tested, questioned, put under pressure. The students I meet conduct a panel interview on me. They come to my office. They ask penetrating questions. They don’t accept waffle and excuses. They’re good. They’re strong. This is not for the faint- hearted. The future is bright. And it’s coming from Bristol.”
Paul Moran, MSc 2012, Professional Mentor


“My time at Bristol was transformational for every part of my life. I made many friends that I’m sure I’ll have for the rest of my life and learnt many new amazing things.I feel part of a community where we can share life’s experiences and ensure that spark and energy is transferred to current students so they can look back and feel proud of their time at Bristol too.”
Andrew Franks, MEng 2010, Manor Hall Association

2019 Kevin Elyot Award winner announced

We are delighted to announce Erdem Avşar as the 2019 recipient of the Kevin Elyot Award for writer-in-residence at Bristol’s Theatre Collection.

Erdem Avşar is an international playwright, translator and lecturer who holds a master’s degree in Human Rights. His work as a playwright is political and often poetic in its language. He is fascinated with form and style and with the idea of queering dramatic realms and structures.

Erdem was selected to Royal Court Theatre’s International New Writing Scheme where he completed his play Dark Pink under the supervision of Zinnie Harris, Mark Ravenhill and Richard Twyman. His other political plays include his short play #occupylove (showcased at the Traverse Theatre as part of the TravNewTalents event Words, Words, Words), #politicsoftea (accepted to National Theatre of Scotland’s “Yes, No, Don’t Know” festival, co-curated by David Greig and David MacLennan) and The Contestant (opened at the Quartieri dell’Arte festival in Italy last year).

Erdem won the EU Collective Plays! International Playwriting Competition co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme. After a series of writing residencies in Italy, he wrote a polyvocal play, the Boy with Scar, in collaboration with three other playwrights. The play premiered at the 22nd Quartieri dell’Arte festival and it had a multinational cast and creatives from Italy, England, Northern Ireland, Turkey and Benin.

His translations of three Zinnie Harris plays premiered at DOT Theatre, Istanbul. His translation of Midwinter was listed in the 2017 Honours List of Eurodram – Network for Drama in Translation. He has recently won the University of Glasgow’s Lord Kelvin/Adam Smith PhD Scholarship for a research on queer theatre as political intervention. He is also a UNESCO RILA Affiliate Artist, a network of artists that work within the realm of refugee integration through languages and the arts. Erdem grew up in Istanbul and is based in Glasgow and Istanbul.

On receiving the good news from Jo Elsworth (Director: Theatre Collection, Faculty of Arts and Director of Cultural Collections – Secondment, Library Services) Erdem had this to say:

Thank you very much, once again, for this amazing news and I am grateful to everyone who considered my application worthy of this brilliant award. Sometimes a wonderful news gains even more significance. I am currently in Istanbul and it was heartbreaking to witness another Pride march being violently attacked last week. Since then I have been struggling to think of new ways of creating something that mattered, a work that could have an impact. And I must admit that things looked quite bleak. Then I received your phone call – a huge encouragement, excitement, and hope, that came at such a perfect time. I am absolutely delighted. I cannot wait to join you in Bristol and start discovering (and devouring!) Elyot’s materials in the archive.


The Kevin Elyot Award is an annual award of £3,000 given to support a writer-in-residence at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. It is made in memory of Kevin Elyot (1951-2014) – an alumnus of the University Drama Department – and the influence he has had on writing and the Arts. It is hoped that the award will enable a writer to be inspired by his work and help them develop their own practice. The Kevin Elyot Archive is held at the Theatre Collection, and comprises scripts, correspondence, manuscript and publicity material detailing Elyot’s working process from initial idea to finished product. The Theatre Collection is one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history and Live Art and is an accredited museum and international research facility open to all.

The award has been generously funded by a gift given to the University by members of Kevin’s family. The award will support a promising writer, practitioner or scholar to begin the process of creating a new written work. The award holder will use the Kevin Elyot Archive as well as other holdings within the Theatre Collection to inspire a new dramatic work or other creative or academic outcome.

Hong Kong Branch and Bristol Young Lawyers meet-up

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Volunteers of the Hong Kong Branch, Bristol Young Lawyers and the Alumni Association Committee came together and offered a very warm welcome to the Bristol Volunteers team over dinner, despite the seven hour time difference and over 6,000 miles distance.

There was lots to catch up about, news to share and finally putting faces to names!

With special thanks to Steve Cheng (LLB 2009), who co-ordinated the dinner held in a lovely private dining space in Central Hong Kong, a lively discussion ranged between UK, Hong Kong and global politics, Bristol’s new Temple Quarter Campus and exciting plans for expanding the volunteer-led programmes in the city.

After dinner, Joanna Sochacka (Engagement Manager, Development and Alumni Relations) updated the group with plans for a new space – Connect Hong Kong – within the University’s new alumni engagement platform, Bristol Connects. Raymond Hau-yin Yuen (MSc Public Policy 2008) shared the great news that they have awarded the Hong Kong Branch Scholarship – we look forward to welcoming the new scholar to Bristol in September.

Steve Cheng shared plans for the Bristol Young Lawyers, including linking up with the Branch more closely and working with alumni from other UK universities, and Adrian Gostick (BSc Geology 1989), member of the new Alumni Association Committee, spoke of how he has been inspired to engage closely with the University after hearing about its pioneering research in congenital heart disease and award-winning enterprise programme. 

The Bristol Volunteers team are working with alumni across SE Asia in July to connect them with current students and recent graduates looking for insight and career tips that can help them take the next step in their career. 

A very big thank you goes to all Bristol Volunteers who give up their time to support the University by helping students and keeping the alumni network connected. 

Find out more about our volunteer-led groups and networks and about Bristol Connects.

US Foundation: a message from the Chair

Lesley Silvester, University of Bristol Foundation Chair based in the US, highlights the significant role the US Alumni play in funding key initiatives and programmes including the Sanctuary Scholarships.  

Each month we see more concrete examples of initiatives and programmes that realise the ambitious strategies committed to within the last five years. The alumni in the US are playing an increasingly significant role in the philanthropic funding of such initiatives channelled through the US Foundation.

For example, at our Foundation meeting in March, it was reported that the US is contributing one-third of the total philanthropic giving towards the Sanctuary Scholarships. These are scholarships provided to refugee and asylum-seeking students in the UK. Another example is the $75,000 we have contributed to the Bristol Futures Scholarships. You may recall the moving video that was recently distributed featuring a student who is a very grateful recipient of such a scholarship and which has given her the means to fully participate in all the University has to offer. These scholarships, as you know, are a key component in facilitating wider participation in the University.

Further, there is evidence that US alumni have a greater propensity to give than those in the UK – perhaps this comes from exposure to the culture in the US of supporting one’s alma mater, perhaps it is a matter of greater valuing at a distance what Bristol provided? We hope it is evidence of the US alumni community continuing to gather strength.

For those of you that have contributed, the US Foundation Board thanks you! For those alumni still considering such gifts, we hope you will be motivated by the inspiring developments afoot at Bristol.

Made in Bristol – Dr. Una Ryan ‘Bristol set me on a path for a lifelong career’

As part of the ‘Made in Bristol’ interview series, alumna and  U.S. Foundation Director Dr. Una Ryan reflects on her Bristol experience

Why did you choose Bristol?
At Bristol, I studied for a BSc in Zoology, with Chemistry and Microbiology as subsidiary subjects. I chose Bristol because it offered me an Open Exhibition based on merit, not need (in fact I was means-tested out of the financial benefits, so my gratitude to Bristol is not based on funding). I very much enjoyed my scholarship interview, I couldn’t answer any of the questions and was therefore asked to extemporize on how I would approach the problems presented. This became the basis for one of the interviewers later recommending me for a fellowship at Cambridge for my PhD.

How did the University experience influence you?

Bristol set me on a path for my life-long career. I now live in San Francisco and have spent a rewarding life in academia, the biotech industry, investing and as an artist. Always science was the muse, I have made discoveries, made medicines, made money and made art…. all based on the science I began at Bristol and developed further at Cambridge. So from saving many lives to decorating a few walls, Bristol was with me.

As a Foundation Director, you’ve chosen to stay closely connected to the University. Why?
I have remained in touch with Bristol out of gratitude and a wish to see others get the same start. My grandson will be a fresher this September

and I will be able to go back and visit him.

Any best memories?

I am not telling about my best memories!

Fair enough. And the future? For Bristol, that is.

I am delighted with the emphasis that Bristol has placed on being a civic university. I think the Temple Meads campus is thrilling and a wonderful meld of the future bond between academia and industry as well as a clear appreciation of Bristol’s roots.


Dr. Una Ryan’s biography describes her as an executive, entrepreneur, board director, investor and artist. Yet somehow that doesn’t do her justice. The honors, for example. Since Una graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Science degree, she went on to Cambridge for her Ph.D. and has been cited for her research by the Howard Hughes organization, the American Heart Association and the United States National Institutes of Health. Over the past 12 years she received the Albert Einstein Award, the Cartier Award and the Economic Forum Tech Pioneer award, all for her work in biotechnology. They were preceded by her receiving the Order of the British Empire in 2002 from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Bristol caught up in 2009 with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Ryan — who resides in San Francisco, the only U.S. Foundation Director now based on America’s West Coast — has led a variety of public, private and non-profit companies. She’s currently on the boards of Cortexyme, RenovoRx and Elemental Machines, and a partner or director in the investment firms Breakout Ventures, Golden Seeds and Astia Angel. Somehow, she has also found the time to create art from her work in bioscience; you can find it online at


Alumni recognition finds the spotlight

Ely J Kahn reports on how the University of Bristol is connecting with alumni communities outside of the UK

University of Bristol Alumni Awards 2019

For the past several years, the University of Bristol has placed increased emphasis on its alumni communities outside the United Kingdom. The United States, where the University’s American Foundation holds sway, has received — along with the alumni communities in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore — increased attention over recent years. This mirrors a heightened overarching recognition by the University on the importance of alumni and their support, both financial and, if you will, emotional.

It was the latter that was most striking this Spring, when Bristolions young and old gathered on March 12 at City of London Lord Mayor Peter Estlin’s (a 1982 graduate who studied economics and accounting at the University) magnificent Mansion House for a first-ever Alumni Awards Night, honoring 10 eminent alumni from finance, sport, science, politics, literature and a variety of other fields, including naturalist/author/broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. Sir David, recipient of a lifetime achievement award, credited the University for being both a fount of zoological expertise and a talent pipeline for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, where his authoritative documentaries are produced.

“Young people are much more aware of how important the natural world is than they were 60 years ago when I began my career,” Sir David told the sold-out gathering, which included a table hosted by American Foundation Chair Lesley Silvester. “The natural world is under greater pressure than it has ever been, not just in my lifetime but since humans existed…The history of humanity is a disaster – of arguing, of quarrelling, of wars. That’s got to come to an end. My message to young people is ‘get engaged, come together and do something about it’.”

The inaugural Alumni Awards Night, reported the University’s website, led Vice-Chancellor Hugh Brady to say, “All the pioneers, innovators and leaders we’ve celebrated through these awards are inspiring role models for our students and we’re thrilled to honour them.”

The heightened outreach effort was mirrored by activities on both coasts of the US, with visits to San Francisco, New York and Boston by Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady and Pro-Vice Chancellor Global Engagement Dr. Erik Lithander. Equally significant was the University’s participation in a joint delegation led by the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and the Mayor of the West of England Tim Bowles, as well as delegates from the wider City Council, Department of International Trade, Business West, and local leading companies. The delegation held meetings in both Boston and Chicago, with alumni joining receptions at the Consulate Generals’ residences in historic Beacon Hill and in a high-rise above Lake Michigan.

Across all the delegations at events and in person we’ve met with over 100 Bristol alumni in the USA,” reflected Andrew Monk, the University’s Deputy Director of Development and Alumni Relations, looking back at the year. “We’ve made some incredibly exciting and strong connections to further Bristol’s collaborations across strategic partners.”

Setting the stage, at the same time, for future success, recognition…even awards.