AFTER a challenging 18 months, university graduates were finally able to celebrate educational success at a bumper ceremony.

Graduates from the University Centre Colchester, part of Colchester Institute, were able to proudly receive their awards in front of family and friends at Colchester Town Hall.

This year’s graduation was a bumper affair, with the classes of 2020 and 2021 being celebrated across six ceremonies, as a result of last year’s event being postponed due to the pandemic.

The two-day event took place in the Moot Hall on Friday and Saturday, and was followed by a reception at The Minories art gallery.

The ceremonies celebrated the hard work and dedication which students have shown throughout their degree courses.

More than 300 students graduated in subjects including visual and performing arts, engineering, health and social sciences, education and accounting.

Graduates received their certificates from guests of honour Ashley Raynor and Steve Mannix, who both delivered inspirational speeches during their respective ceremonies. 

Guest of honour during Friday’s ceremonies was Ashley Raynor, a University Centre Colchester fashion and textiles graduate, who is now a successful fashion designer and company director.

In 2019, the same year as completing her studies at the university, her graduate collection was picked up by the organisers of New York Fashion Week and she subsequently flew out to show her collection there that September.

On Saturday, Steve Mannix, executive director of the Mercury Theatre, presented the awards. Mr Mannix has worked in the arts and cultural sector for more than 35 years, recently overseeing the completion of the £11.3million Mercury Rising project, which has transformed the venue.

Among those graduating were ten individuals selected from the university centre’s three academic  schools,  who  each  received  an  award  in  recognition  of  their achievements  and  commitment.

One such dedicated student was Laura Butcher who, despite spending most of her time as a carer, continued to work hard and achieved a first-class degree in business and management.

Emma Noone was celebrated for her photographs of volunteers and key workers fighting Covid, while Michael Buick’s work in the areas of music composition, production and performance were described as “exemplary”. 

Sophia Evans was nominated for being committed to every aspect of her degree course and for her outstanding work as a social media administrator.

Other students nominated were Francesca Speary, Nathan Hanover, Zainab Domingue, Lucy Gayler, Habtamu Ayele and Jane Stewart.