More than 1,000 higher education students will today graduate from two of Northern Ireland’s further education colleges.
Around 500 South Eastern Regional College (SERC) students are gathering at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, to celebrate completion of courses while 700 Southern Regional College (SRC) graduates are attending its largest ever graduation ceremony at the Armagh City Hotel.
They have finished degree, foundation degree and higher national diplomas (HND) as well as professional qualifications.
Dr Robson Davison, chair of SERC’s governing body, said: “SERC has completed a very successful year, with the high points being students winning awards, like Carolyn Barr who successfully won the UK Outstanding BTEC beauty and hospitality student of the year 2012. Also graduates Leanne Millis and Joanne Wilton won gold medals from LCCI.”
For SERC graduate Clare O'Neill there is double reason to celebrate as she has not only completed her BA honours degree in business management, but in her final year Clare secured a Level 5 management and leadership qualification, accredited by the Chartered Management Institute.
Clare said: “I've really enjoyed my course, but as I starting thinking about applying for jobs I knew that it was important to stand out. When my lecturers encouraged us to get involved in this qualification I saw my opportunity to stand out from other graduates who I will be competing with for jobs in the future.”
SRC chief executive Brian Doran paid tribute to all the graduates.
He said: “Your presence here demonstrates the important role that the college plays in diversifying the higher education system and providing opportunities for individuals to progress.”
Among those graduating from SRC today is Newry man Paddy Lunny, who was a professional football player with Nottingham Forest.
He returned to the college on a full-time basis in 2011 to complete the access diploma in adult learning. Later this month he will start work in veterinary medicine at the University of Bristol.
Paddy will receive the £5,000 student award from Norbrook Pharmaceuticals while runners-up Anthony Murray, from Dromintee, and Nathan Jeffers, from Portadown, each received £3,000.