PhD Student First For University Of Cumbria Graduation

The University of Cumbria has celebrated a special milestone during graduation for themselves and one of their students.

Dr Joan Howarth has become a Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Therapy and is the first to attend a graduation ceremony to receive a PhD awarded by the University of Cumbria.

A PhD is the highest level of degree a student can achieve and recognises significant contributions to research in a student’s chosen field.

Dr Howarth said: “I needed to research my unique Occupation Focused Teaching Tool to get an evidence base to know what the tool could do and bring to the profession.

“It took me seven years of part-time study before I was awarded my PhD two years ago, so it has been wonderful to be able to celebrate with my supervisors, whose expertise and speciality was why I chose to do my PhD at the University of Cumbria.

“This PhD has given me a confidence and it’s a real validation of my expertise within my profession, a profession I’m very passionate about and proud to be part of.”

Dr Howarth’s PhD, awarded in April 2020, is among the first clutch of doctoral research degrees the university has been able to award since the Privy Council granted it Research Degree Awarding Powers in 2019.

For Dr Howarth, this is in the field of occupational therapy and designed a tool to help teach current occupational therapy students about the complex concept of occupation.

Having successfully implemented the tool within programmes at the University of Derby where she is a senior lecturer, Dr Howarth plans to work with fellow academics at other universities including Cumbria to introduce the tool elsewhere, playing a significant role in developing the skills and knowledge of those entering the profession in the future. 

Proudly watching her graduation earlier this week were Dr Howarth’s husband Nick and her study supervisors University of Cumbria Emeritus Professor Diane Cox and Associate Professor Karen Morris. 

Receiving a standing ovation, Dr Howarth was the first to wear the distinctive blue robe that reflects being awarded a University of Cumbria PhD. 

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Health, Environment and Innovation) at the University of Cumbria, said: “We are delighted to have awarded our first PhDs over the last two years and delighted to have Joan join us at our graduation ceremonies this week; we are very proud of all of their achievements. 

“We recognise that those who undertake applied research at the University of Cumbria go on to make a real impact and transform the lives of so many around them now and for generations to come.” 

With sites in Cumbria, Lancaster and London, the University of Cumbria is hosting graduation ceremonies once again at Carlisle Cathedral following a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Seventeen ceremonies for 2,700 graduands, who completed programmes in 2020 and 2021, have taken place between 25-29 April 2022.

They include those studying in the fields of the arts, health, education, science and environment, and business, industry and leadership.