July 2017 saw 3,500 students graduate from Edge Hill University, from 14 ceremonies and applauded by thousands of guests in just one week.

Between July 17th and 21st, the achievements of our undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Health and Social Care and Faculty of Arts and Science were celebrated.

The University also awarded seven honorary doctorates to outstanding individuals. Each of the recipients were recognised by Edge Hill for their contributions to society that resonate with the University’s values, teaching and research.

Video: Honorary degree recipients: Summer graduations 2017

Singer-songwriter Marc Almond, Doctor Who and Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall and comedian and broadcaster Alexei Sayle visited Edge Hill University in July 2017 to receive Honorary awards. They were joined by champion swimmer Francesca Halsall and rugby legend Ray French MBE.

Dr Dame Sue Ion, one of the UK’s foremost nuclear engineers, and British academic, writer and activist Professor Peter Beresford OBE also received honours. Each of the recipients was recognised by Edge Hill for their contributions to society that resonate with the University’s values, teaching and research.

Dame Sue Ion

The UK’s foremost female nuclear engineer called on teaching graduands to encourage and support girls and boys to see science as crucial to their progression.

Dame Sue Ion who is keen to encourage more young people into science and engineering careers addressed graduands as she collected her honorary degree from Edge Hill University on 21 July 2017.

UK’s foremost female nuclear engineer collects honorary degree

The UK’s foremost female nuclear engineer called on teaching graduands to encourage and support girls and boys to see science as crucial to their progression.

Dame Sue Ion who is keen to encourage more young people into science and engineering careers addressed graduands as she collected her honorary degree from Edge Hill University today (21 July 2017). She said:

“Even if science is not your discipline, can I ask you to be as encouraging as you can be throughout your career by giving support and encouragement to students of both sexes, girls and boys alike to stay the course and view the scientific disciplines as fundamental to good progression, and give them opportunities to find out more.

“As a nation we’re desperately short of science and engineering talent from apprentices all the way through to top end professorial researchers. Opportunities are increasing and salaries are absolutely excellent.”

Praising the University’s new Technology Hub, TEF Gold status and its top national rankings in graduate employability, Dame Sue urged graduands to exploit the opportunities they’ve been given at Edge Hill to find a career they enjoy.  She said:

“One of the most important things about work after university is that you find something enjoyable to do that’s challenging and also good fun. Based on my experience I’ve had this in spades.

“When I left university all those years ago I never would have dreamt I’d be sat down to lunch with the Queen and Prince Phillip at Buckingham Palace…or that I’d be briefing more than one Prime Minister or minister of state in the course of my career.

“All I can say to you is grab every opportunity put in front of you because you never know, you might be doing the same thing.”

She added:

“As young graduates in 2017 you face some of the most exciting and challenging opportunities for a generation. Your work, your creativity and your attitudes as you enter the next phase of your careers will be vital to our wellbeing in the 21st Century. You can make a real difference.

“Edge Hill has a reputation for being fleet of foot, innovative and ready to grasp opportunities. If you do likewise which I’m sure you’ll all do you’ll do very well indeed.”

Dame Sue Ion is Chairman of the UK Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board (NIRAB). She is the only non US member of the US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee on which she has served since 2005.

Having managed British Nuclear Fuel Limited’s UK Research and Development portfolio, she has worked tirelessly to promote the benefits of the industry and was credited with persuading Tony Blair to change Labour’s official government policy on nuclear power, allowing the development of an energy policy that recognises the need for nuclear, alongside coal and renewable sources, to meet Britain’s future energy requirements.

Awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to the nuclear industry, Sue was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 for services to science and engineering.  A Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, she was its Vice-President from 2002–2008 and was the first woman to be awarded the President’s medal in 2014. Sue was born in Cumbria and has made Lancashire her home.

Hospital worker with a passion for helping people swaps career to become primary school teacher

A former Health Care Assistant at Bolton Royal Hospital has fulfilled her dream of helping people by swapping her career ambitions and becoming a teacher.

Rachael McFadden, 26, who had graduated this week with a First in Teaching, Learning and Child Development, had initially wanted to become a nurse.

She said:

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left college, I just knew I wanted to help people so I worked at the hospital in the hope of becoming a nurse.

“I enjoyed the job but I knew it was not the right career for me, I just knew it. I volunteered at a school and I knew for certain this was the right career for me and exactly what I wanted to do.”

After being advised at an open evening that Edge Hill was the best teaching university Rachael put all her eggs in one basket and only applied there.

Rachael, from Salford, said:

“I felt like leaving my job and applying to university was such a big risk but now I look back and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.

“I’ve enjoyed the experience so much, moving away from home and feeling like I’m actually doing something with my life.

“The placements have helped develop my confidence and increase my motivation to become a teacher and, one day, have my own class.”

After an initial placement in a school in Parbold teaching Key Stage 2 (7 to 9 year-olds) Rachael’s last two placements were in a school in Chorley teaching Key Stage 1 (5 to 7 year-olds).

She said:

“I originally wanted to teach Key Stage 2 but once I stepped into a Key Stage 1 classroom I fell in love with it. I even volunteered at the school in Chorley after my placement ended because I loved it so much.

“In September I begin a one-year placement in Bolton then all being well I’ll be a fully qualified teacher.

“In the future I’d love to become a school counsellor as the psychology side of education and behaviour management really intrigued me on my course.”

First Class success for dedicated volunteer

Alongside her academic studies, committed student Maegan Cleary has dedicated a lot of her time to volunteering and raising money for Ukrainian orphanages.

Budding teacher Maegan, from Huyton, graduated from Edge Hill University today with a First Class degree in Children and Young People’s Learning and Development, and had to overcome some challenges in the process.

“I chose this course because I thought it would be a great platform to help reach my dreams of becoming a teacher,” said Maegan. “In addition, I have always struggled with exams and this course was completely coursework based. It was only when I came to Edge Hill that it was recognised that I had dyslexia.

“I found the tutors to be really supportive and approachable, and they allowed me to become an independent learner. The different modules were really interesting and interactive, and I was able to go on trips which were really helpful in supporting my development.”

Maegan received an Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship for Prospective Students in recognition of her dedication to volunteering, and she hopes to use her scholarship to revisit the Ukraine to work with those damaged by the ongoing conflict.

“In 2011, I volunteered with a community church where I spent Friday nights in the local youth club supervising children and acting as the first aid,” said Maegan. “The church had links to a Ukrainian orphanage and proposed to go over and support the local orphanage.   I worked with a group of volunteers to raise money for the trip, and after raising enough, we filled half of our suitcases with donations of clothes, pens, pencils and toiletries which we presented to the orphans on the last day.

“While I was in the Ukraine, I taught dance to the orphans and each morning we would work on a routine to be shown on stage in the local community.  After hearing terrible stories about how they ended up in the orphanage, it was so nice to see the children enjoying themselves. We took the children to theme parks, ice skating, shopping, movie nights and many other trips using the money we raised in the UK.  Taking the children to McDonalds was an eye-opener – most of them have never eaten at a fast food restaurant and they were so excited when we arrived!

“It was a tough experience and made me endeavour to never take things for granted and always help those in need. After returning from the Ukraine, I now volunteer with a local dance group, using my skills to support and teach them a couple of nights a week.”

Maegan hopes to become a qualified teacher and use her experiences to support children of all ages. As well as encouraging them to acknowledge how fortunate they are, she would also like to support children who have had a tough upbringing and make it clear that they are always good enough to achieve.

To find out more about studying Children and Young People’s Learning and Development, click here.

Gamble pays off for former holiday rep who made deal with herself to gain degree before turning 30

A former international holiday rep who spent years entertaining children and gambled her career for a degree now has her sights set on becoming a head teacher.

Lancaster’s Leanne Millican, 29, who made a deal with herself to change her career and get a degree before turning 30, is this week celebrating her graduation from Edge Hill University.

Leanne, who worked in countries including Lapland and Egypt and had a brief stint crewing a private jet before moving into recruitment, gained a First in Learning and Child Development.

She said:

“Before attending Edge Hill I had a promising career in recruitment but I just felt unfulfilled working in an office.

“Prior to that I’d entertained children in holiday resorts for over five years which I adored. I thought about being a teacher on and off for years but my confidence and life obstacles stopped me.

“Then I finally made a deal with myself that I wanted to graduate before the age of 30. Many people thought I was crazy to sacrifice a good job and become a student but I felt I needed a positive change and my gamble paid off.”

After getting into the routine of studying again Leanne also took on the extra responsibility of becoming a course representative

She added:

“As a ‘mature’ student it was a long time since I’d written an essay and that made me panic.

“But all the tutors gave me such encouragement and support with academic writing and their ‘real life’ school experience really demonstrated how to teach in a modern classroom.

“The other great experience was work based learning. We spent lots of time in schools through our placements and I had the opportunity to teach in a variety of school settings.

“Because I felt so engaged and passionate with the course I became course rep. It allowed me to voice students’ opinions and help keep the course stimulating and relevant.

“Personally it has helped me to be able to be an advocate for others and has improved my confidence and mediation skills.”

Leanne is currently working as a supply early years practitioner over the summer and is starting a job in September in a school in Mossley Hill, Liverpool.

She added:

“I’m delighted with my First and I still have big dreams, my long term goal is to one day become a head teacher. I like to dream big.”

Dedicated student overcomes family challenges to achieve top marks

After juggling the demands of motherhood and overcoming a turbulent relationship, Amy Magill has graduated from Edge Hill University today with a First Class degree.

Child Health and Wellbeing graduate Amy, from Southport, has turned her life around after falling pregnant while she was at college, and through her degree she hopes to help others going through difficult times.

“I fell pregnant when I was 16 with my little boy who is now seven,” said Amy. “My family support worker, Nicky Tinsley, encouraged me to return to college to build my confidence back up, and I took her advice and achieved a triple distinction star. This inspired me to continue my studies to university level.

“I wanted to do the Social Work and Nursing degree at the time, but as a single mum with a little boy who hated to leave me, this would have been impossible. I met Carol Wilson, Edge Hill’s Head of Applied Health and Social Care, who suggested the Child Health and Wellbeing course which suited my needs and time much more.

“I found my course a challenge, but at the same time extremely rewarding and it has opened so many new doors. I think it also helped that my tutors were so supportive and offered continued help and guidance throughout.”

Amy volunteers for Home-Start Southport and Formby, who work to support vulnerable families, and has secured a job as a Family Support Worker at Amber Family, a unit which supports parents and helps them provide a safe environment for their children.

Home-Start Southport and Formby won the ‘Volunteering Organisation of the Year’ award at Edge Hill’s Employability Awards evening after being nominated by Amy, who not only praised the vital work of the organisation, but also described how skills she has learned from them are complementing her studies.

In a reference from Home-Start’s Manager, Annie Ives, she described Amy as, “a strong, committed and enthusiastic individual. She is kind, caring, non-judgemental and has a positive attitude to life. She is well able to understand the realities that many parents have to face. I believe she will do well in whatever she chooses.”

Amy has been accepted onto the Masters in Social Work at Edge Hill and dreams of becoming a social worker, eventually opening her own organisation to offer support to young teenage parents.

Click here to read more about studying Child Health and Wellbeing.


Professor Peter Beresford asks graduates to be advocates for young people

Professor Peter Beresford OBE, who collected his honorary doctorate at Edge Hill University today, called on graduates to be advocates for young people and a line of defence for them when needed.

Addressing graduates from health, social care and social work degrees he spoke of an ageist society where young were pitted against old and asked them to always remember the value of young people.

He said:

“I think that children and young people tend to be the victims of uncaring and disempowering politics and ideology.

“For those of you graduating from social work and other professional courses, many of you will be working with children and young people.

“I’m hopeful that you will be advocates and a line of defence for them as we know from some of the awful things that have ultimately come to light recently, such as organized sexual abuse and how much they need people to stand up for them.

Prof. Beresford quoting the words of German wartime writer Erich Maria Remarque who greatly influenced him as a youngster “don’t try to understand the young, they just want to be left alone…..if you can’t help, keep out of the way.”

Asking graduates to always try and remember these words, he said:

“Help (young people) on their way through the difficulties that we may have known only too well.

“Sometimes it seems to me we want to pretend they never happened. We should be honest about our own experiences, the mistakes that we made, the helping hands we needed.

“We should help, we should offer support we should be there for them. We shouldn’t interfere, we shouldn’t reject or come to simplistic judgments.”

Professor Peter Beresford OBE is a leading figure in the arena of citizen participation and involvement, and perhaps the pre-eminent voice in relation to service user and carer participation in service design, delivery and evaluation.

He is currently Professor of Citizen Participation at the University of Essex, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University, Co-Chair of independent user-controlled organisation, think tank and network Shaping Our Lives and a visiting professor at Edge Hill University.

In 2007 he was awarded an OBE and in 2016, he was named as one of the top 100 influential people in the UK in relation to issues of disability and impairment.

Mother who ‘didn’t think she had it in her’ inspires children with first class degree

Mum-of-two Sarah Riley who left school with no good GCSEs and never thought of herself as academic has inspired her children with a first class degree.

Sarah, 37, who was working shifts in a call centre and never thought she’d ever set foot in a university has achieved her dream of a first class degree in Health and Social Wellbeing at Edge Hill.

After taking a Fastrack course to ease her way back into education, Sarah decided to pursue her long-term dream of becoming a social worker and enrolled on a degree.

Despite juggling the demands of family life and the added stress of coping with a family illness, Sarah gained a First class honours and now plans to take a masters.

Sarah, from Kirkby, said:

“I was never very academic and went straight from school to work in an office job then I ended up doing shift work but it was never what I wanted to be doing.

“I never thought university was an option for me but I heard about Edge Hill’s Fastrack course and enrolled.

“I absolutely loved it and enjoyed every minute of it. There was stuff I’d not done for a long time and it was hard getting in the swing of academic study again but it left me prepared.

“During my degree I tried to take the broadest options; politics, social policy, female genital mutilation, international health then I focussed on safeguarding in my second year.

“It was hard balancing the degree with the needs of my children and then my partner was ill and couldn’t work for a while.

“He has a first in Law and always joked he was the only one with the brains in the family but now I can tell him ‘not anymore you’re not’.

“The best thing about gaining my degree is that my daughter is already planning on coming to university and has the belief that she can work or study. Whatever she wants to do she knows she can achieve with hard work and determination.”

She added:

“I’m now employed as a support worker at a mental health hospital and I’m hoping to do a Social Work Masters at Edge Hill.

“It’s funny as education was never on the agenda for me and I never thought I had it in me but attending the graduation ceremony with my partner and children will be one of my proudest moments.”

Student overcomes brain tumour to score top marks

Against the odds, Rachel Hughes has graduated from Edge Hill University today with a First Class Honours degree.

At the age of 17, Child Health and Wellbeing graduate Rachel, from North Wales, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour situated on her pituitary gland. She had to take a variety of medication to control her hormones and hopefully shrink the tumour as it was sitting very close to the optic nerve.

“It was a very stressful time as I was right in the middle of completing my A levels,” said Rachel. “Shortly after the diagnosis, the medication seemed to be working and I was finally feeling somewhat normal. However, things became much worse at the start of 2013. I was experiencing a number of side effects from my medication, including dizziness, headaches, nausea, insomnia and loss of appetite, resulting in losing two stone in six months. I found out the tumour had grown back to its original size and had to try two other medications, both of which gave me the same side effects. I was told to stop taking the tablets and that undergoing brain surgery was the last option.”

Unfortunately due to her illness, Rachel didn’t achieve the results she needed to go to university and was forced to stay on an extra year. Undeterred, Rachel repeated the year, and halfway through, in January 2014, had brain surgery which had a seven week recovery period. She worked harder than ever after the surgery and managed to get the grades she needed to start at Edge Hill in September 2014.

“When I started at Edge Hill, I was put in touch with the counselling service and it was a relief to know this was available when I needed it. My personal tutor was so supportive throughout the three years, and even though I didn’t need to ask for extensions or resubmit any assignments, I was confident that there was always someone to talk to. The friends I made both on my course and in halls were wonderful and they kept me going if I was having an ‘off’ day.

“Due to my illness and surgery I lost a lot of confidence, but thanks to my time at Edge Hill, my confidence grew enough to go to America in the summer of 2016 to work as a camp counsellor. While I was there I travelled to Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City. Edge Hill has helped me to finally enjoy life and study to the level that I know I am capable of doing. I really enjoyed my course and it not only gave me great confidence, but it was informative and enabled me to develop many skills.

“While I still have many symptoms that I have to cope with on a day to day basis, I will always remember and cherish my time at Edge Hill as a wonderful part of my life, and I am delighted to discover that I have been awarded a first class honours degree. This is something I never thought was possible five years ago.”

Following graduation, Rachel plans to take some time out and travel to a number of countries. She then hopes to secure employment in the childcare sector, before returning to Edge Hill to complete a Master’s Degree.

Click here for more information about studying for a BSc (Hons) Child Health and Wellbeing.

Accountancy prize for First Class graduate

Beth Collins has been awarded a top prize from the Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants, for being the most outstanding third year accountancy student at Edge Hill University.

After undertaking work experience at her Dad’s local Chartered Accountancy practice, Beth, from Kirkby, has graduated from Edge Hill today with a First Class degree, and during the ceremony she was presented with a certificate and a cheque for £100 from the LSCA.

“I chose Edge Hill based on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ (ICAEW) professional exam exemptions of which the University offered seven,” said Beth. “It seemed like a good fit as I could continue to work part time at Collins & Co in Ormskirk and implement my theoretical learning, which then helped when writing assignments and sitting exams. I also knew the University well as two of my older sisters have graduated from Edge Hill.

“Edge Hill have been really supportive during my time here, awarding me two academic scholarships and an excellence scholarship. The lecturers on the Accountancy course have been amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I was first told about this award at the beginning of my third year and the requirements to achieve it. Since that point I’ve always had it in the back of my mind and always hoped that I would receive it, but never once expected it. When I got the email saying I’d received the award I was over the moon! At this point I hadn’t even received my marks so it was a complete shock.”

Beth will be starting her ICAEW three year training contract in September at Collins & Co Chartered Accountants. Until then, she plans to spend her summer focusing on the charity work she undertakes, which will include a youth pilgrimage to America where Beth will be a leader with a financial role.

Click here to find out more about studying Accountancy at Edge Hill.

Mental health partnership with premier league football club inspires graduate’s career path

Edge Hill’s focus on mental health issues and its innovative partnership with Everton Football Club has inspired a graduate’s career path.

After involvement in the University’s Mental Health Day and a work placement with a charity fighting child sexual exploitation in sport, Jamie Legge has decided to continue his studies with an MSc in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health at Edge Hill.

Jamie, 21, who is graduating with a First in Sports Development and Management today, said:

“I’ve loved the wide variety of topics and modules that my course offered particularly safeguarding, child protection and mental health. The course also provided me with vital work experience and I worked with the charity State of Mind to develop workshops for students at this year’s University Mental Health Day.

“I also took a placement at Survivors Manchester, a charity working to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in sport, which has now led to a paid part-time role. Through studying and experiencing diverse topics such as mental health, exploitation and the links between physical activity and health I’ve decided this is the area I’d like to work in and ultimately become a social worker.”

He added:

“I can’t wait to continue my studies at Edge Hill. One of the main attractions of the course is that I will have the opportunity to be involved with Everton in the Community through Edge Hill’s ‘Tackling the Blues’ children’s mental health programme.

“Being involved with this programme will give me the skills I need to help me in my future career. By delivering sporting sessions to children I’ll gain first-hand experience with the population I’m hoping to work with in the long-term, as I hope to become a social worker working with children with mental health issues.”

Jamie, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, also credits Edge Hill for his growth in confidence and improved communication and time-management skills.

He said:

“I found it challenging to organise my time and complete the reading and assignments on time so I’m now better organised and manage my time more efficiently.

“For me one of the biggest challenges was presentations and delivering sports sessions to big groups. As a shy and not very confident individual these tasks were daunting but I’ve been able to develop these each year and I’m now happier and more confident than in the past.

“Through working with partner organisations my different communication skills have improved, emails, meetings, telephone calls and I’ve also learnt a few tricks from them as to how to write successful job applications.”

Find out more about our degree in Sports Development and Management here

Waste no time in achieving your dreams, says Olympic swimmer at graduation ceremony

Francesca Halsall

Olympic swimmer Francesca Halsall gave Edge Hill Sport graduands some top tips from her career in elite sport at their graduation ceremony this morning.

Francesca, who herself was made an Honorary Doctor of Science at the ceremony, said that it’s never too early to start working towards a goal.

“Daily discipline and hard work are the only keys to success,” she said. “I’ve heard the words ‘on your marks’ followed by an electronic beep hundreds and hundreds of times and this procedure is an amazing antidote to procrastination. You have no reason to think, just act – do it now.”

Southport-born Francesca retired earlier this year from a career that saw her represent Great Britain in the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics and compete in many other international competitions, breaking records and bringing home 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships. She is now a businesswoman, having opened a new coffee shop in the heart of Altrincham, a shared venture with two other Olympians, Jess Varnish and Liam Phillips.

She encouraged those entering careers in elite sport to show emotion, rather than repress it, saying: “It’s ok to show emotion, just not to your competitors. I’ve bawled my eyes out on national television which wasn’t my finest moment but learning to vent to the right people at the right time made me stronger and bottling things up is never a good option.”

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “In January Francesca announced her retirement. She moved back to the North West, having spent the best part of a decade with the Great Britain elite squad at Loughborough, joining her partner, Jon Wilkin, who many of you will know as the captain of St. Helens RLFC. She has brought back with her 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships and has been, without doubt, the pre-eminent female swimmer of the past decade. It is a privilege to welcome her back home.”

Karate champion praises supportive University environment

One of the world’s top young karate competitors graduated from Edge Hill University today with a degree in BA (Hons) Sports Development and Management.

Natalie Payne, 21 from Manchester, took up the sport at eight years old and is currently ranked fifth in the world at junior level and seventh in the world at senior level.

In 2011 Natalie and her fellow England teammates made history by becoming the first female English Junior Kata team to medal at a European Championship and she has gone on to achieve a number of gold medals since.

Natalie said:

“Edge Hill lecturers have been more than supportive of my sport. At first this was something I was nervous about as travelling for competitions requires taking time off, however staff allowed me to be flexible and are always interested to hear how I’ve done, and asking when my next competition is.”

Whilst studying at Edge Hill, she was awarded a Sports Scholarship which she used to help fund her participation in European and World Championships.

She said:

“Being awarded the scholarship has helped me more than you could know. Because karate is not yet a funded sport all expenses have to be paid for by either me or my parents, so the scholarship enabled me to keep studying and training without having to work, so I could focus on both.”

This year has seen Natalie compete in the European under 21 championships where she achieved fifth place for England. She currently holds silver British and English titles, and last year gained gold in both. She also recently travelled to Spain to compete for England and achieved a PB (personal best) in the senior category. She is currently working towards the Team GB selections next year.

Natalie also gives up her spare time to coach children with disabilities, and upon graduating she hopes to enter full-time employment within elite sport or disability sport.


Rugby international reflects on teaching career at graduation ceremony

Ray French MBE

St Helens-born Ray French MBE – who represented his country at international level in both rugby union and rugby league and combined his sport and media careers with a 34-year teaching career – was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Edge Hill University today.

Addressing the graduands, many of whom were receiving teaching degrees, he recounted tales from his years in both teaching and international rugby, and had some words of wisdom to offer.

“Enjoy your subject – I did – and enjoy making use of the wealth of subject knowledge that Edge Hill has given you,” he said. “But also immerse yourself in your school or workplace beyond the limits of your subject. Engage with your pupils and colleagues and you will develop friendships for life. Your pupils will learn more about you and develop interests in life that you give them – both your lives will be enhanced together.

“Show humility in all that you do but above all have confidence in yourself, a belief that what you are doing is right. Be confident in your work.” 

In addition to his teaching and rugby careers, Ray French is also a coach, TV and radio commentator, author and columnist.

The majority of his career as an English teacher was spent at Cowley High School in St Helens.

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “I am so pleased that we are honouring Ray French – for his acclaimed achievements as a former rugby union and rugby league international player – who attained the rare honour of representing his country at international level in both codes of the game. In addition we are honouring Ray French – the coach, TV and radio commentator, author, columnist, – who combined his sport and media careers with a teaching career lasting 34 years.”

Swimmer sets gold standard

European Youth Olympic silver medallist and European Junior Championship gold medallist, Alex Dunk, likes a challenge as he succeeds with his studies alongside his swimming.

Alex, from Tarbock, has graduated from Edge Hill University this week with a BA (Hons) Biology, a subject he enjoyed throughout his school years.

“Edge Hill has been a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed my course,” said Alex. “Scholarships Administrator, Zoe Slater, was amazing and the staff in the sports centre were so helpful and accommodating. The pool was always available to me, as was the gym and sports hall if I ever needed it, which really made a difference when I had afternoon lectures.”

Alex was awarded an Edge Hill University Sports Scholarship at Gold standard based on his swimming achievements. He was also crowned Knowsley Young Sports Person of the Year and was selected out of thousands of young people to carry the Olympic torch in 2012.

“I was 16 when I made my first international competition and from there I was selected to represent Great Britain in the European Youth Olympic Festival in Trabzon, Turkey in the summer of 2011. I managed to pick up a silver medal and was spotted by the England Talent Development programme, and selected for European Juniors in Belgium and Poland where I won a gold medal and broke a British record for 18 year olds.

“Following this, I was picked up by the World Class Programme, which aims to help the development of future world class athletes, and I received funding from British swimming to help towards training and hotel costs.

“After the 2012 Olympics and the poor medal performance of the swimming team, the government cut the funding of the World Class Programme, so I continued training on my own. During the qualification event for the 2016 Olympics, I achieved four lifetime best times from four events, and made the final of the 400m Individual Medley.”

Alex’s future aspirations are the same as any elite athlete. He aims to keep training and improving, perfecting his skill set for the 2020 Olympics.

Click here to find out more about Edge Hill’s sports facilities.

Singer-songwriter Marc Almond’s inspirational message for Edge Hill graduands

Singer-songwriter Marc Almond had some inspirational words for graduating students today as he accepted an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from Edge Hill University.

Although he has enjoyed worldwide fame and sold over 30 million records, Marc told graduands that true success comes from self-belief, creativity and happiness rather than money or fame.

“Self-motivation is the key to success in the artistic or musical field,” he said. “It’s character building and you will need this more than ever in today’s competitive world. Success is doing what you love, to be fulfilled by your creativity, to be happy. If success comes, enjoy it, then appreciate it, but most of all be self-motivated. Self-belief above all else will do the heavy lifting for you.”

He also praised the University, adding: “I feel honoured to be here today receiving such a prestigious award from an esteemed University recognised for its excellence. I was so impressed when I was given a tour of this beautiful campus.”

Marc Almond has sold over 30 million records worldwide in a career that has spanned a diverse range of musical styles from the electro of his band Soft Cell to Turkish torch songs to Brazilian Macumba music and Russian folk. In 2010 Marc – who grew up in Southport – celebrated 30 years as a recording artist with a successful tour, culminating in receiving Mojo magazine’s ‘Hero Award’. He released three albums in 2014 and has most recently released the musical anthology Trials Of Eyeliner covering the years 1979-2016. His Shadows and Reflections tour is scheduled for October and November this year.

Giorgia sings her way to graduation success

Aspiring singer-songwriter Giorgia McKenzie Bortoli has been performing all her life – and now the former Excellence Scholarship winner has fought ill health to take centre stage at this week’s graduation ceremonies, receiving a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre.

“Both my parents are artists which is how my interest in the arts started. While my mum was pregnant with me she was part of Bluecoat’s Sense of Sound choir, and she says I was performing before I was even born.”

In school, Liverpool-born Giorgia was teased for her dreams of becoming a singer by fellow students and told by teachers that she would never be able to get a job doing anything. That didn’t stop her, though, and in 2014, she secured a place at Edge Hill University and was later awarded a Performing Arts scholarship in recognition of her contribution to the arts. As well as being involved in numerous choirs and groups, mastering styles from gospel to swing, Giorgia has also gained extensive live experience, including being part of winning performances at festivals.

“I have surpassed everyone’s expectations by achieving a degree in what I love, musical theatre, despite having a lot of health problems while at University. I was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency, which affects my energy levels, memory and concentration, making it extremely difficult to meet the demands of my course at times. But with the understanding of the lecturers, I have been able to complete all my work and finally graduate.

“My scholarship really helped me to get the equipment I need to record my own music and keep on perfecting my skills within the music industry. It also gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my ability.”

Giorgia has big plans for the future and has already secured an unconditional offer for Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA). However, she has decided to take a temporary break from studying to work on her practice.

“I am going to take some time to better my health and focus on some solo projects, make some new music and, hopefully, get a band together. I will also be going on auditions and trying to get as much experience in a professional setting within the industry as possible.”

To find out more about studying Musical Theatre, click here.

Award-winning young filmmaker eyes big screen career

A talented young filmmaker whose films have already won two prestigious awards graduated from Edge Hill University today with first class honours in Film Studies.

Andrew Harrison, 21, from Birkdale, has several productions to his credit including a full-length feature. Alongside filmmaking colleague and Edge Hill graduate Lewis Simpson, Andrew received a North West Young Filmmaker award from the Institute for Amateur Cinematographers for short film I Live on the Deaths of Millions, which was selected for its plot and cinematography. Andrew also won an award from Southport MovieMakers for his short film Goldfish, in praise of the film’s depiction of emotion.

Andrew said: “The short and feature-length films I have made range from comedies to horrors, and have all been co-written and directed by my three friends and I. We kept them low-budget by using our own equipment and locations, and also assuming the roles of cast and crew! We’ve made films for almost 10 years now, initially just for fun and out of love for the craft, but more recently the production values have risen and the experience and technical knowledge we have gained whilst studying has helped the films look progressively more professional.”

Whilst studying, Andrew was awarded an Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship which he says has helped him hugely.

He said: “It allowed me to buy more advanced film equipment – such as a new, higher-end camera and different lenses – whilst still being able to afford living costs. The Edge Hill library is a brilliant and indispensable resource for renting film equipment but thanks to the Scholarship I was also able to own some equipment of my own which made it easier to shoot whenever and wherever I wanted. You don’t need money to make a great film – as many low budget films have shown – but the Scholarship’s allowing me to purchase equipment certainly improved the visual quality of my films.”

After graduation Andrew plans to spend the summer shooting several of his new scripts, with the intention of entering them into prestigious festivals.

He said: “Me and my filmmaking colleagues (also Edge Hill students) have several films planned, and intend form a small production group in order to further our careers and get our films noticed. I also plan to apply for internships and jobs at any industry level I come across, potentially at nearby television locations like the BBC, ITV, or Lime Pictures, and work my way through roles. My ultimate career goal is to work in the film industry either as a writer or director, but I would happily start in any position and work my way up.”

Andrew has credited his lecturers and tutors at Edge Hill as being “wonderfully supportive and helpful throughout my entire degree, both in the department of Film Production and my core subject Film Studies.”

He continued: “Their passion for cinema and the art of it has been inspiring and exciting and has urged me to carry on with my hobby in my extracurricular time. They always advised we spend free time watching films, to constantly surround ourselves with them and in turn learn more about the techniques and methods, which was great advice.

“Furthermore, if any readers who aren’t yet at university are considering taking Film (either Studies or Production) as a degree at Edge Hill, then they absolutely should have no doubts about its efficiency in honing skills in the filmmaking area.”

Click here to find out more about Film Studies courses.

Alexei Sayle receives Honorary award

Alexei Sayle receives his award from Vice-Chancellor Dr John Cater

Liverpool-born comedian and broadcaster Alexei Sayle was today made an Honorary Doctor of Literature by Edge Hill University.

Upon receiving his award, Alexei told of watching the campus grow on visits to Ormskirk since family members moved to the town in the early 1990s. He also praised the University’s commitment to employability.

He said: “I’m not only impressed by the facilities at this marvellous institution, but also the effort made to guide students from study into their professions – it’s very different to when I was a student and might have helped me decide what I wanted to do more quickly.”

He joked: “I need to provide those graduating today with some inspirational advice so I’ll refer to one of my stand up characters who is a bit of Zen master. He says ‘when one door closes, another opens.’ I used to have a Vauxhall Astra that was like that…”

A stand-up comedian, actor, author, radio and television broadcaster, columnist and recording artist, Alexei is widely regarded as one of the most original and influential performers to emerge from the 1980s alternative comedy scene, and acknowledged as a creative innovator across numerous art forms.

Roger Shannon, Professor of Film and Television at Edge Hill University said: “Alexei Sayle is an innovator, an originator and a comedic agitator.

“Honorary Doctorates at Edge Hill University are an important way in which we can acknowledge the highest of achievements. Alexei has demonstrated these in so many ways.

“His attainments demonstrate what an excellent role model he is for the University and for its students, and we are delighted to mark his many successes with an Honorary Doctorate today.”

Chancellor’s Scholarship winner Joshua swaps student life for wildlife

Dedicated conservation volunteer Joshua Styles may be graduating this week, but he leaves behind a lasting legacy to protect Edge Hill University’s wildlife for years to come.

Joshua, from Sandbach in Cheshire, completed a three-year BSC in Ecology after discovering a taste for conservation work through volunteering for Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Martin Mere.

During his time at Edge Hill, Joshua created a biodiversity action plan for the campus to identify key habitats and species, give grounds staff a plan for the management of green spaces on campus that would be beneficial to wildlife, and also biodiversity improvement measures such as the placement of bat and bird boxes around campus. Joshua’s work led to the discovery of a rare Dune Helleborine orchid on campus, one of only 100 locations in the UK where the plant has been recorded.

“I have always had a strong connection with the natural world from an early age,” said Joshua. “In my teens I became a local wildlife sites surveyor for the Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) which involved me surveying biodiverse sites and recording the species present, which provided CWT with valuable biological records. I also volunteered with Cheshire Rangers, assisting with practical conservation work such as coppicing, formulating a management plan for a local nature reserve, which led to an increase in the nationally protected and rare grass snake, and recording species on Cheshire East Council’s local wildlife sites.”

Joshua has earned various awards in recognition of his hard work at Edge Hill. As well as two awards for academic achievement, he won an Excellence Scholarship for his commitment to volunteering, which he continued alongside his studies. He has also been awarded a prestigious Chancellor’s Scholarship in recognition of his contribution to the University.

Thanks to his outstanding skills and experience in the environmental sector, Joshua secured a part-time job as an ecological consultant before he even graduated, and he plans to increase his hours now he’s not studying.

“Doing my degree has been an absolutely fantastic experience,” he added. “I made a lot of contacts in the sector I wanted to work in and I was supported by amazing tutors.”

To find out more about studying Ecology, click here.

Top marks for PR students whose campaign had positive impact on migrant community

A group of Public Relations (PR) students who graduated today from Edge Hill University have received the highest mark ever received for a piece of work since the course began.

Alex Croft, Holly Worsley, Lore Adenegan, Aaron Roberts, Caitilin Jones and Isabella Sivvery devised and implemented a PR campaign to promote the work of Southport-based charity Migrant Workers Sefton Community (MWSC) which works with Eastern European migrant workers across the Sefton area.

Eileen Saunders, Founder of MWSC said: “The team helped raise the profile of the charity and really got stuck into the work. They were really interested in what we do. They were a professional team who put a lot of effort into the project, particularly on the day of an Integration Event we held, where they were confident, professional and courteous. A joy to work with.”

Holly Worsley

Holly Worsley said: “Working on the campaign has been a greatly rewarding project to be involved in. It was a fantastic opportunity to put our PR theory to the test whilst also helping the community and a worthy charity who were in real need of support in its PR activities.

“The experience from the campaign has also helped me secure a full time job at a leading agency weeks before my graduation.”


Paula Keaveney, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations and Politics at Edge Hill said: “The work the students did was of the same standard we would expect from PR professionals.  In fact they over achieved on many of their objectives and made a significant difference to a local charity.  This is down to their commitment and willingness to be imaginative and fast moving rather than wait for opportunities to come to them. 

“This is exactly the sort of behaviour that will make our graduates stand out in the work place and is why Edge Hill makes a point of including plenty of real world experiences in its PR degrees.”

New Doctor Who Showrunner receives Honorary Doctorate at Edge Hill

Chris Chibnall, who later this year becomes Showrunner for the BBC’s Doctor Who, visited Edge Hill University this morning to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Literature.

The award comes in the wake of Sunday’s news that for the first time ever, a woman will play the Time Lord in the legendary TV show. Jodie Whittaker, known for her role in acclaimed ITV crime drama Broadchurch (written by Chris), will be the show’s 13th Doctor.

“Appointed a new doctor yesterday, made an Honorary Doctor today – it’s been quite a weekend,” Chris laughed as he addressed graduands at the ceremony. He spoke of how honoured he was to receive the award and his love for the North West, which is ‘embedded in his heart and soul.’

Chris told graduands: “Something I wish I’d known earlier, you’re probably all wondering ‘what’s going to happen to me in the future?’ It sounds very obvious but I didn’t realise it until four years ago when I wrote Broadchurch and people started stopping me in the street to ask about it – the future is you, it’s not something that just happens. The future is there to be taken by every person graduating today.

“I wrote Broadchurch for myself and never thought anyone would want to make it, let alone watch it, but that story has gone around the world, been remade in America and France and turned into a novel. It led to me being offered what was as a child my dream job, being in charge of the Tardis and Dr Who – I never thought that would happen either!

“I’ve been really lucky – I’d wish everyone graduating the same amount of luck I’ve had. Your luck has already started by coming here to this extraordinary University.”

Chris Chibnall, who is one of Britain’s most important and accomplished television dramatists, grew up in Formby, Merseyside. He was head writer and co-producer of award-winning Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood and writer of all three series of acclaimed crime drama Broadchurch. He contributed scripts to BBC One’s Life on Mars, was lead writer and executive producer for ITV1’s Law & Order UK; and creator and executive producer for Camelot, a dark retelling of Arthurian myth.

His two television films – BBC Two’s United, which tells the story of Manchester United’s Busby Babes and the Munich air disaster, and BBC One’s The Great Train Robbery, which documents the heist from the perspectives of both police and thieves – demonstrate Chris’ talent for dramatising historical moments around a core of well-drawn affective human relationships. He has also written five Doctor Who episodes.

Inspirational young carer achieves First Class degree

A young carer since the age of 11, Jodie Williams has devoted much of her time to looking after her mother, and has still managed to graduate from Edge Hill University today with a First Class Honours degree.

Sociology graduate, Jodie, grew up in South Wales and at the age of 11 years old started caring for her mother who suffered with a number of health problems. However as she started secondary school, her mother’s health deteriorated and Jodie became her full-time carer.

“For me, the decision to start studying at University was a very big one to make,” said Jodie. “Not only did I have to consider myself, but I had to consider whether my mother would manage if I moved away.

“It was a big change for me to move away from my family and not be able to offer face to face support for my mother, after having been a continuous source of strength for my family. Fortunately, my father was able to undertake some of the caring responsibilities which allowed me to concentrate and study to the best of my abilities.

“I was awarded an Excellence Scholarship which helped me achieve the best result that I could because it helped to reduce the pressure and worry of what was happening at home because I was travel home to visit my family regularly. I am so grateful for this support as I was able to focus more on my studies and as a result of this, I am so proud to have received a First Class Degree.”

Jodie has devoted her free time to promoting services for children in similar situations by running workshops, doing media interviews and presenting to national carers’ organisations. Jodie’s “courage and determination” was recognised in 2015 when she received the Youth of the Year Award for Wales at Buckingham Palace.

“When I found out I was awarded the Youth of the Year Award for Wales I was shocked as it is always a surprise to me when people commend me for the way I support my mother as I see it as an everyday thing. I remember feeling elated and nervous at the idea as Buckingham Palace had always been the world away. I am grateful that my caring role has allowed me so many opportunities.”

Jodie aspires to encourage changes that allow people in a similar situation to have more opportunities, putting her academic skills and life experience to good use.

Click here to find out more about studying Sociology.