Who is the record-breaking Sunderland student born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day?
A man who was born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day has achieved the highest mark ever awarded to a student graduating from an English course at the University of Sunderland.
Anas Mahmoud Ahmed Disi, 23, scored a record 98% for his dissertation and graduated this week from his English Master’s degree.
He has received the Sir Walter Scott Prize for Best MA English Studies Student for his incredible achievement, which has left a lasting impression on his academics and peers.
Academic supervisor Dr Alison Younger said: “We’ve never had a student like Anas before, he just blew us away with his lateral thinking.
"He has the kind of mind that allowed him to take huge imaginative leaps, he has such a passionate love of literature and engaged in every aspect of the course.
“When it came to grading his dissertation, we spent hours scrutinising the work thinking we must be missing something, to see a piece of work of this standard which is nearly flawless and work we’d expect to see written by an experienced Emiterus Professor.
"Even the external examiner was aghast when she read the quality of work he’d produced and couldn’t disagree with the marking.”
The Palestinian has now returned home to Amman, Jordan, working as an academic co-ordinator at a private language centre.
He hopes to further develop his professional career in teaching and research and start a PhD that builds on the work from his MA, as he aspires to become a literary criticand professor.
Despite missing his graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light and not collecting his award in person, Anas said: “I feel honoured.
"Being awarded this prize was not only a personal milestone, but also a feat of pride for my family and the many beautiful friends who supported me enough to finish the dissertation in the form it was submitted.
"It was their unwavering support that led me here.”
The dissertation for which he received his outstanding grading was a critical study between two schools of social and literary analysis – Marxist Theory and Postcolonial Theory.
Asked why he was marked down two points, Alison Younger, Senior Lecturer in English, explained: “We marked him down by 2%, simply on the grounds we thought that if he’d really wanted to push the boundaries he would have included one more critic.
"It certainly did not diminish his work however!
“His dissertation used post-colonial theory and Marxist theory to critique each other and was a massively philosophical discussion.
"We teach our students both of these theories on the course that should give them the skills to go ahead and write a dissertation using one of them, but Anas took it one step further and used them both to critique the other.
"We would encourage him to put it forward for publication, it’s certainly worthy.”
On living and studying in Sunderland, Anas said: “It’s been an enjoyable experience; what I liked most was the availability, ingenuity and steadfast support we as students received from the academic staff.
"I got involved in a lot of activities among them the Sunderland Literature Festival, the public reading of Spectral Visions literary works and visiting a lecture on Bram Stoker by BramStoker’s descendent in Newcastle.”
Head of the School of Culture at the University of Sunderland, Steve Watts, collected the Sir Walter Scott Prize on Anas’s behalf, during the Winter Graduation Ceremonies at the Stadium of Light.
The prize was presented by Dr Malcolm Morrison, an Associate of Abbotsford the home of Walter Scott near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.