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It’s been five years since criminology student Joanne Sloane first entered the University of Ulster to study for the BSc degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice she receives at the Waterfront Hall today.

“But It’s all been worth it,” said the Ballymena woman, who is now eager to begin a career in the Prison Service following the award of her 2.1 degree.

And she did it the hard way: five years of part time study, funded by a range of part time jobs.

Joanne packed a lot into her final year of study, not only by studying intensely for her degree, but also by getting married, and by becoming a mum to son Dylan, who will now be accompanying her to her graduation.

Although juggling the demands of a part-time degree with job pressures is very challenging, Joanne said she had really enjoying the degree course, and would thoroughly recommend it.

“I loved it,” said Joanne. “ I loved the learning, the sense of gaining new knowledge every day. I wanted to go to university to better myself, to give myself the chance of a career, rather than the succession of mundane jobs I’ve had in the past.

She paid particular tribute to the quality of support she’d had from staff in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy. “They were always there for me when I needed them, and gave me all the help and support I could have wished for. Their constant encouragement made all the difference to my being able to successfully complete my degree ” she said.

”It takes real dedication and commitment to achieve what Joanne has achieved”, her tutor, Dr Rachel Monaghan said.

“She came into the university as a mature student, and it was her sheer enthusiasm and determination to succeed that impressed us at her interview.

“Joanne is an inspiration to any potential student who feels that university may be beyond their reach.”