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Ulster University today commenced its summer graduations with the first of 13 ceremonies that will celebrate the achievements of over 5000 students and honour 15 inspirational figures from business, the arts and public life.

Speaking at the Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry, where three ceremonies will take place, Ulster University's Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alastair Adair said:

"At a time of real and significant challenges for Ulster University and for higher education in general across Northern Ireland, I have never been more proud to see the calibre and enthusiasm of our graduates as they enter the next chapter of their lives.

"University is more than a place of study. It is a place of much broader learning where character is formed, confidence is gained and futures begin. It is about our graduates understanding the relevance of their studies so that each year, even more can make a positive difference to global societies.

"That is reflected in our honorary graduates for 2015, where the diverse range of recipients have influenced and shaped business, the arts, healthcare, law, sport and public life. They have left an indelible mark by ensuring that the lives of others are improved and informed by their skills, and their example. 

Outlining the 15 honorary degree recipients who include Chief Coroner John Leckey, who during the most difficult of circumstances prioritised compassion and respect for families, and boxer Gerry Storey, who has worked tirelessly to unite communities through sport, Professor Adair added:

"All of our honorary graduates have in some way changed lives for the better, in the same way that this new generation of over 5000 graduates, now have the ability to improve lives, communities, societies and economies – at home and around the world.

"Whatever challenges higher education may face, our priority remains our students and Ulster University will not compromise on the quality, rounded student experience that allows our graduates to fully realise their potential."