The Impact of Scholarships on Class of 2020 Graduates

Some of our new graduates who were awarded corporate and graduate-funded scholarships during their degree discuss the impact they have had on their studies and the opportunities they have created.

   30 July 2020

As we celebrate the graduating Class of 2020 this summer, albeit in a slightly different fashion for the moment due to the COVID-19 restrictions on physical graduations, we took the opportunity to catch up with some of our graduating scholars to look at the impact that both corporate and graduate-funded scholarships have had on their studies and their lives in general.

We are delighted to have a wonderfully generous group of corporate partners and Ulster University graduates who provide funding and make donations annually so that our students can continue to avail of opportunities to further their education and achieve their career ambitions.

Inga Hamilton

Inga is graduating with a first class honours in Ceramics, Jewellery & Silversmithing from our Belfast campus.

Denied access to education from a young age and now managing a neurological condition which often sees her lose the use of the right-hand-side of her body and her speech, Inga has defied the odds to come to University and graduate at the age of 50. She now plans to continue her studies with a PhD.

Inga received the Subway Ireland scholarship in her final year, which not only gave her the means to purchase the expensive raw materials and tools required for her course, but it also gave her a new-found confidence having people believe in her and wanting to support her.

The scholarship gave her the freedom to strive even harder and without it, she admits she would not have achieved the result she did. She is extremely grateful for the opportunity that her scholarship has given her. Hear more below.

Caroline Walton

Caroline graduates with a first class honours in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Jordanstown. Having worked for 20 years as an Investigator, Caroline took the brave step to come to University as a mature student, as despite her years of experience, she was unable to apply for the senior roles she so craved without a degree.

As a single parent of two children who has struggled with mental health issues over the years, Caroline was forced to take a significant salary cut in order to commit to her studies which understandably brought many challenges.

It was through the support of Ulster University graduates who give so generously to the Student Opportunity Fund, that Caroline was awarded the Gateway Scholarship, allowing her to work part-time during her degree and dedicate more time to her studies. She whole-heartedly believes that without this support, she may not have finished her studies, let alone achieved the results she did. She is excited for what her future now holds. Hear more below.

Paul Doherty

Paul has graduated with a first class honours degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from Magee. After years of working for a furniture manufacturer and retail company, Paul decided to pursue a career change and returned to education to study Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Magee, having completed an Access course. As a mature student with home and family commitments, this was a life-changing decision.

Paul was the recipient of an SSE Airticity Scholarship and he believes this was one of the contributing factors in helping him achieve his outstanding results.

The scholarship helped to alleviate some of the financial stresses of full-time study and meant he did not have to seek part-time work during this time, allowing him to focus solely on his studies and still have time to spend with family at weekends and in the evenings. It also allowed him to pursue a range of extracurricular projects such as designing, building and racing an electric car with fellow students as well as a human powered vehicle to compete at the world human powered speed challenge in Nevada.

These activities have strengthened Paul’s University experience and equipped him with the practical knowledge required for his career. He has now secured a role as a Design Engineer. Hear more below.

Victoria Burns

Victoria graduates with a first class honours in Psychology from Coleraine. Growing up in the care system, Victoria faced a range of challenges before she even arrived at University. With three young children to support, she always dreamt of gaining her degree and set about achieving this goal.

As a care leaver, there was limited financial support available to Victoria, particularly once home and family commitments had been taken care of. Despite these challenges, Victoria’s determination saw her thrive during her three years at Ulster. In her final year she was awarded the Subway Ireland Scholarship which she admits allowed her to afford more childcare support so that she could dedicate more time to her studies and gave her the means to purchase books and other essential items.

Victoria will begin a Masters in Health Psychology in September and eventually plans to pursue a PhD. She believes that had it not been for the financial support she gained through her scholarship, she would have been unable to attain the results she did. Hear more below.

Darren Greene

Darren graduates with a first class honours in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. A few years ago, he never imagined he’d be a student at Ulster. At age 16, he tragically lost his father in a work-related accident which had a profound effect on his life and saw him underachieve in his A Levels. Following a difficult few years, he made the brave decision to return to education as his interest in technology and manufacturing had been revived through his job at the time.

Having left a secure job in an aerospace factory, this had obvious financial implications which Darren found very challenging. He applied for and was awarded the graduate-funded Gateway Scholarship in his first year and this was a real turning point in his journey as it allowed him focus more on his studies and get involved in a range of extracurricular activities such as the Green Power Formula 24 challenge and the Human Powered Vehicle challenge.

Darren has now secured an Engineering role at the Exact Group in Newry and he would like to thank all the graduates who donate to the Student Opportunity Fund to help students like him.


We would like to congratulate all our graduating scholars and commend them on their hard work and determination in obtaining their final degree. In addition, we would like to say a huge thank-you to our graduate donors who give so generously to the Student Opportunity Fund each year so that our students can access higher education and all the opportunities it brings and our corporate partners such as Subway Ireland, SSE Airtricity and many more who continue to provide these wonderful opportunities. For more information on all the support available to students, visit the Scholarships section of our website.

Further Information

Support the Student Opportunity Fund

Corporate Scholarships

For more information on how your organisation can get involved in supporting our students through scholarships or other initiatives, email Tania Carlisle, Corporate Engagement Partner.

Tania Carlisle

Corporate Engagement Partner

Corporate Engagement