Graduation is icing on the cake for 100,000th graduate Avril

The University of Dundee has celebrated a special milestone in its history, with a renowned chef, who left school at 16 with no Highers, becoming the institution’s 100,000th graduate.

Avril Burns (47) is used to serving up treats for Sir Andy Murray and his family as Head Pastry Chef at the tennis great’s luxury Cromlix Hotel in Dunblane and her graduation will mark game, set and match on a return to education that began five years ago.

The Teaching Qualification in Further Education she received at the University’s Winter Graduation ceremony on Thursday 15 November builds on the HNC and HND that Avril obtained from Forth Valley College before matriculating on the distance learning programme at Dundee.

Avril’s academic achievements have already allowed her to diversify her career and she now works as a part-time lecturer at Fife College’s Dunfermline campus in addition to her role at Cromlix Hotel. She now hopes to take on further lecturing opportunities to fulfil her ambition of nurturing the next generation of master bakers and patisserie chefs.

“I left school at 16 and immediately began working in kitchens,” explained Avril. “I’ve now been a pastry chef for 20 years and have been lucky enough to work with and learn from some really great chefs. About five years ago I started thinking about what else I might want to do and thought that I had a lot to give back and so started college as a way of getting into lecturing.

“It was tough doing these courses while working full time. I had gone to college when I was an apprentice but it was a bit of a culture shock to go back 25 years later and I really have to thank Ian Gibb and his staff at Perth College, who I shadowed as part of my course, for all the help they gave me.

“I really love lecturing. It’s great to work with younger chefs after all these years and to pass on what I learned. The fact is that I’m still learning, myself. The Cromlix is a fantastic place to work and there’s always something new and challenging about being a pastry chef.”

Avril’s husband Drew and youngest daughter Amber (16) watched on with pride as she crossed the stage at Caird Hall. Her other three children and two grandchildren were unable to attend the graduation but will join in the celebrations at the family home near Falkirk later.

Avril is in good company as an alumni of the TQFE as former MasterChef: The Professionals winner Gary Maclean is also a graduate of the programme at Dundee.

In graduating, she followed in the footsteps of 99,999 other students who have graduated from the University of Dundee since it became an independent institution in 1967. The milestone is symbolic of the way Dundee has established itself as one of Scotland’s leading universities for teaching and research over the past five decades, according to Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Pete Downes.

“I want to pass on my warmest congratulations to Avril and everyone who will graduate this week,” he said. “The fact we have now had more than 100,000 graduates mean we now have more than 100,000 success stories to celebrate. Our aim is to transform lives and there is no clearer illustration of the ways we do this than through the life-changing opportunities that our graduates receive as a result of their University of Dundee education.

“Avril’s story particularly resonates with me as I didn’t go to University when I left school but instead went to college while working full-time, so I know just how hard she must have worked to get where she has.

“To obtain her qualifications while holding down a position at the top end of a profession that demands long and unsociable hours, and being able to balance all this with her family commitments says a lot about her drive and determination. It epitomises why we are so committed to lifelong learning and widening access to education here at Dundee and I wish her all the best for her future career.”


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