November graduation sees Ultraversity 'virtual learners' meet up for the first time

Published: 2 November 2006 at 11:46

Over 1400 university students will be graduating during five days of ceremonies staged by Anglia Ruskin University, at Chelmsford Cathedral, during November (21-25).

Among the graduates will be a group of 120 remotely-based student researchers who have undertaken a pioneering BA (Hons) Learning Technology Research degree course which is helping to take online learning into the mainstream.

This remarkable class of ‘virtual learners’, who will be meeting face to face for the very first time,  have centered their study on their very own working practices.  The programme which sees the researcher combine study with working can take as little as three years to complete - the same time as the length of a standard degree. Open University courses, by comparison, extend over five to six years when undertaken while the student is engaged in employment.

Ultralab, the learning research division of Anglia Ruskin University, has been working hard to explore new approaches to e-learning as a part of its commitment to expanding access to higher education. The Ultraversity project was set up to directly contribute to this government priority area by researching the delivery of a fully online, undergraduate, work based degree.

Ultraversity student Sharon Sweeney (47) from Holland on Sea in Essex said:

“I’ve loved the idea of being a new and ground-breaking student ‘researcher’. I haven’t needed a traditional university life to back up my studies – I would never have had the time to fit it in.  I have made friends through learning groups but while we’ve swapped photos of each other, we have never met so the graduation day is going to be a real eye-opener. We’ll be meeting our fellow students, literally, for the first time.”

The many Anglia Ruskin University graduates will be marking the completion of various higher education degree courses at the University.  They represented all five faculties within the University: the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, the Ashcroft International Business School, the Institute of Health and Social Care, the Faculty of Science & Technology and the Faculty of Education.

At the same time as the student graduations will take place a number of special awards will be presented to various individuals in recognition of their special achievements.  On 21 November (at 12.00 noon) during a graduation ceremony for Arts, Law and Social Sciences students, Graham Gooch OBE and Roger Shilling will be receiving Honorary awards. Graham Gooch is receiving an Honorary Doctorate for his long and dedicated contribution to County Cricket in Essex, and for his illustrious and international record as a successful Test Captain of England. In 1991 he guided Essex to their fifth County Championship and was awarded an OBE. He retired from Test Cricket in 1995, after winning a record 118 caps for England and becoming their highest run-score with 8,900. In 1997 he announced the end of his playing career working in recent times as Essex Country Cricket Club’s Head Coach.

Roger Shilling, will receive an Honorary Fellowship for his long, dedicated and distinguished service to the University as senior academic administrator, and for his sustained contributions to church and charitable organisations in Essex.

On 22 November (at 2.30pm), during a graduation ceremony for students of the Ashcroft International Business School, John Ainsworth will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University for his contribution to business, industry and education. John Ainsworth has been Chief Executive and Secretary of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators for sixteen years. Before this he studied at the University of London and the City of London Business School and subsequently accumulated a wealth of experience as a high-level administrator in the Central Electricity Generating Board, the British Transport Docks Board, the British Industries Federation and the Institute of Administrative Management.

He is currently Chairman, Open and Distance Learning Quality Council; Council Member and Board Director, Commonwealth Association of Corporate Governance; Member of Court, Cranfield University and member of a range of organisations focused on professional standards.

On 24 November (at 3.00pm) The Right Reverend Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward KCMG will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University.  Currently Pastoral Advisor to the staff at Ridley (theological) college. He was ordained and became Chaplain at Magdalene College, Cambridge, as well as having held a previous Chaplaincy Council role at Anglia Ruskin University. An accomplished lecturer and writer, he was a former Chaplain to the Queen and served as Bishop of Coventry for twelve years.

The final roll of honour will be bestowed to Andrew Pike on 25 November (at 11.30pm). He pick up an Honorary Doctorate of the University award at a graduation ceremony staged for students of the University’s Institute of Health and Social Care.

Andrew Pike is a career NHS Manager who joined the Health Service following University.  He has been Chief Executive of Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust in Chelmsford since 2000. During this time he has become recognised as an outstanding leader and the driving force behind the Trust’s improvements and proposals to centralise services. He started his career as a management trainee at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London.

Over recent years, he has been closely associated with developments with Anglia Ruskin University to identify opportunities for joint working between the two organisations. This has been particularly in the areas of medical and healthcare education, clinical research and support services.

As Chief Executive, he plays an important role in the present and future plans for nurse and healthcare education and employment in the region.