Opportunities for people from all backgrounds to gain a university education are set to grow, according to the University of Ulster's Vice-Chancellor.
Speaking at the winter graduation ceremony at Jordanstown, Professor Richard Barnett told the graduating class of 2006 that the university is at the forefront of pioneering technology which makes third-level education available to all and added that the university is committed to delivering flexible study to part-time students who may have other commitments.
Around 200 students from the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Business and Management received their degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate level this morning.
Professor Barnett said that by developing innovative methods of study, including a 'virtual campus', that the opportunities for people from all backgrounds to gain a university education will grow and grow.
He added: "In particular we shall be exploring ways in which we will be able to combine e-learning opportunities supported by small group and laboratory or studio classes in the university.
"In this regard we shall be building further on the pioneering work of Campus One € our fifth and virtual campus."
The Vice-Chancellor said that commitment to widening access to education applied not only to full-time students but also to people who have family commitments and choose to study part-time.
He said: "The provision of part-time study also plays a central role in opening up opportunities to study at university. Some 40% of our total student population complete their programmes of study by part-time study, and many of you graduating today will have completed your courses in this way."
A special pledge was also made to greater enhance the opportunities in university education for those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, something which the University of Ulster's Step-Up programme has been introduced to address, and has had great success.
The programme, which was developed in the North West, is due to be extended to 15 schools located in the poorer areas of Belfast.
Meanwhile, triple jumper Jonathan Edwards was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University at this morning's ceremony.
At one time, Jonathan held all four major world titles - Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth - simultaneously, one of only four athletes ever to have achieved that feat.
In 1995, he smashed the triple jump world record at the World Championships in Gothenburg with an astonishing leap of 18.28 metres, a record which still stands unchallenged to this day.