HUNDREDS of students from Petroc college turned out to celebrate their graduation in Barnstaple today.
Wearing robes and mortarboards the higher education students gathered outside the Royal and Fortescue Hotel before parading through the town.
They were originally meant to be parading down the High Street but an ambulance blocking the way meant the route had to be changed.
Instead they made their way down Boutport Street before eventually cutting through to the High Street.
The students were all celebrating having graduated on their foundation degree courses, which higher education coordinator Craig Litster hopes will be the springboard for their further success.
“We are delighted that 200 students have studied in North Devon, many of whom will go on to achieve a full degree, either at Plymouth or with us.
“Not only have they got a degree but they have achieved high grades.
“Today is about recognition of all their hard work.”
A lot of the students were already working in areas to do with their chosen degree subjects and others have gone on to secure careers as a result of their degree.
Roger Wills, 67, from Bideford, studied fine art and is now setting up his own studio in Bideford.
“I will be selling all my own work,” he said.
Lesley Parsons, 48, from Barnstaple, Pauline Horlick, 46, from Bideford and Carolyn Curtis, 44, from Woolsery all studied early childhood studies.
They said it has been a challenge juggling their degrees around other commitments.
“It is not about the grades,” said Lesley. “As mature students it is about getting through it whatever life throws at you. We have made it, we are still here and we are still smiling.”
Jackie Thomas, 33, from Swimbridge, was already teaching at Petroc before beginning her degree in education.
“I have learnt so much more about teaching because I came in without a qualification and just got the job based on experience,” she said.
“It has allowed me to become a better teacher.”
Cerian Ayres, who teaches the education degree, said Jackie is a rarity among women as she is a teacher of engineering.
“Have a person like Jackie who is a teacher, an educator and an engineer is fantastic,” she said.
“It is even more great because we are the South West regional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) centre.”
Michelle Lawrence-Bardsley, 43, from Combe Martin, who studied health and social care, turned up to her graduation on crutches as she suffers from a bad hip.
“It just spurs you on,” she said. “It is a big old world out there and otherwise you just become one of many.”