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The Open University honours Phil Coulter

Professor Hazel Rymer, Phil Coulter, Doctor of the University and John D’Arcy

Composer, musician, singer and producer Phil Coulter was honoured by The Open University with the award of Doctor of the University at a ceremony in Croke Park today on Friday 20 April. Mr Coulter had his award conferred alongside 103 students from all walks of life, of all ages and backgrounds and from a spectrum of careers.

Mr Coulter was recognised for his exceptional contribution to education and culture. The Open University makes honorary awards in line with its mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas, and the promotion of social justice through the development of knowledge and skills.

The writer of well-known and much-loved Irish songs such as the ‘The Town I Loved so Well’ and ‘Ireland’s Call’, Mr Coulter has received numerous accolades for his musical work spanning more than 50 years , including 23 platinum discs, five Ivor Novello awards and a Grammy nomination. He also received the Gold Badge from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 2009. As a producer he has worked with Irish icons like Sinéad O’Connor and Van Morrison.

Many of today’s 103 Open University graduates are from across Ireland and beyond. Many have fitted their study around work or family commitments; some have a disability or live in a remote or rural community, while others did not have traditional university entry qualifications, or came from low-income households. For all of them, today’s ceremony marks the culmination of years of hard work and a commitment to learning.

One of them is John O’Sullivan from Cork. John graduated with a BSc (Honours) in Natural Sciences. The Open University provided a route for him to develop his skills and gain a qualification in an area that he had a personal interest in. 

“My passion is for all things space including astronomy, space history and astronautics. Once I had exhausted my local Astronomy club and adult education classes I wanted to continue and get a formal qualification and I found The Open University was ideally placed to provide that.”

He says: “I’m proud to have achieved a degree in a science subject. I enjoyed both the learning and the sense of achievement with each assignment and tutor feedback.”

The flexible nature of Open University study enabled John to complete his qualification, fitting it around work and family life. He says: “I had a busy year at work so I was able to take some time off studies during that time. Also my daughter arrived in 2012 and once again the fact that the OU allows people to study at their own pace and around other commitments in life made this achievable.”

John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University in Ireland, said:

“Today is a remarkable day for our students. They have worked hard throughout their studies to achieve their qualifications, fitting their learning into their lives, and proving that getting a qualification makes a difference to individuals, families and communities. We are proud to see them cross the stage today at Croke Park.

Honouring Phil Coulter today alongside our graduates makes this ceremony an extra special occasion. It is a pleasure to recognise his contribution to Irish culture and to welcome him to The Open University family.”

Phil Coulter, Doctor of the University, said:

“I am truly delighted to get this honour. I have long admired how The Open University has made higher education accessible to students who might otherwise never have aspired to getting a qualification. Many of today’s graduates have had to manage their studies around their jobs, their families and their daily grind, with no sense of entitlement. I’m proud to join them.”

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