Press release

The graduand engineering a successful future for his family

Published on 19 November 2020

When the University of Dundee hosts its Online Graduation Celebrations next week it will mark the culmination of a challenging five-year journey for Stephen Blacklaw, whose desire to provide a better future for his children led him to higher education

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Dundee-born Stephen is one of almost 2,000 students that have been awarded their degree since June. The University’s Winter Graduation had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Online Graduation Celebrations taking place on 26 and 27 November will allow students to celebrate their achievements with peers, families and friends instead. 

Stephen (38) worked various jobs, including driving lorries and working as a supervisor at a scaffolding company, after leaving school but never felt fulfilled with his work. Looking for a career change, he applied to study Civil Engineering at Abertay University and completed a degree there before moving to Dundee for postgraduate study. 

The decision was a bold one, as he and his partner had five-year-old twin boys at the time. His daughter was born in the final year of his undergraduate degree, meaning Stephen had more challenges to negotiate than most students. After graduating with distinction while juggling family life, Stephen decided his higher education journey wasn’t over and has now received an MSc Civil Engineering degree with merit. 

He says that his children had a major influence on his decision to return to studying and continued to motivate him throughout his time at university. 

“It wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t easy,” said Stephen. “I had a lot more responsibilities than others and had to be good at time management and really disciplined. Once the kids were in bed, I would study until the early hours of the morning, waking up not long after to take them to school. 

“I want a good future for my kids, and I thought one day I might be preaching to them about higher education so I should lead by example. I want to be successful and encourage them at some point in the future. 

“When I was looking for a career change, before deciding on University, the jobs that were on offer were very limited and many required qualifications. 

“I’ve always been in the construction industry in some way shape or form, and engineering has always interested me. That’s what initially brought me to study at university. 

“I can build a wall and guess that it’s going to stand for a few years, but how do you prove it? I really wanted to know how to mathematically prove that a structure is strong enough to withstand whatever it’s intended purpose is. 

“After investing four years in my undergraduate degree and doing really well, I thought to myself, why stop there? I knew a Masters would really help my future career.” 

The Online Graduation Celebrations will begin on Thursday 26 November with School of Business at 12pm, following with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, School of Humanities, School of Science and Engineering, and School of Social Sciences at 7pm.  

The virtual celebrations will continue Friday 27 November with School of Dentistry at 4pm, following with School of Education & Social Work, School of Health Sciences, School of Life Sciences and School of Medicine at 7pm. 

Students, friends and family can view the celebrations at


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878
Story category Graduation