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An outstanding University of Ulster student - recently awarded the Biggar Award for education after coming top of her year - graduates today. 

And Clare Sherry’s graduation will be a double celebration as her husband James also picks up his Masters degree at the Jordanstown campus – this will be their third graduation together. 

“We both attended St Mary’s University College in Strawberry Hill, London, and graduated with a degree in PE and Geography, followed by a PGCE in Physical Education, so being awarded our Masters in Education Management is our third graduation together,” she said. 

The couple are PE and Geography teachers, who currently teach in Co. Monaghan and Co. Cavan, prior to this they worked in London for a number of years before taking the opportunity to travel around the world for 18 months before settling in Newtownbutler, Fermanagh.  

“We both thoroughly enjoyed the Masters, the first two years were lecture based, so it was a real benefit being able to attend  Monaghan Education Centre rather than the Coleraine campus, it made it so much easier not having to travel a long distance to get to our weekly lectures,” said Clare.  

“We carried out a lot of research into different areas of education management, the material covered by our lecturer, Gareth Parry, was very interesting. A highlight for me was being given the opportunity to interview the Minister of Education in the Republic of Ireland as part of one assignment.  

“One part of the course I enjoyed most was meeting and networking with teachers from other schools at our weekly lectures. Overall the Masters benefited me on both a personal and professional level. The course would be beneficial to both primary and post-primary teachers who are interested in furthering their studies, the masters mainly focuses on educational management within schools.” 

Lecturer Dorothy Black explained that the current award is presented to the student with the highest overall graduating mark in each course and added that “Clare is a worthy recipient”. 

“I was appointed as her supervisor and from our first on-line exchanges and throughout she has been a pleasure to work with and showed much diligence and determination,” said Mrs Black. 

“The focus of her dissertation was how those responsible for pastoral care in her local schools perceive their roles and contribute to the well being of the pupils in their care. This work has highlighted the importance of valuing each pupil and developing good interpersonal communication systems within schools. “ 

The Biggar Award was originally established in 1877 by the then Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Criticism James Lyle Biggar. He had been appointed to the staff of Magee College, Londonderry, in 1885 and after having served only five years died unexpectedly in 1890.   

An extract from the Derry Standard of the 15th September 1890 described him as ‘a power for good in the college’ where his sincerity, simplicity, genuiness, purity of motive, modesty combined with a rare ability and great attainments impressed all who were acquainted with him’.

A gallery of images from the 2010 Winter Graduation ceremonies can be viewed at: