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Dad-of-two proves it’s never too late to learn

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New University of Central Lancashire graduate Ryan Johnston.

Ryan Johnston graduated with first-class degree after combining his studies with fatherhood and full-time work

A Rossendale man who juggled a full-time job and being a dad to two young children has graduated with a first-class degree from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Ryan Johnston took to the stage of Preston’s Guild Hall last week to collect his MA Internship in International Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management after completing his studies part-time over two years.

The dad of seven-year-old Maisie and 21-month-old Eva is the sales and operations director for Cruise118 in Chorley. He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have graduated from such a wonderful course. It’s been tough trying to fit it all in but it’s been well worth it. I spent the weekends and evenings doing my studies as I have a full-time job and I’m a dad but my wife was great getting up in the night and doing the feeds and nappies so I could get a bit of rest. The support I’ve had from my family, my work and the lecturers has been superb and I couldn’t have done this without them.”

The 40-year-old started his working life as an AirTours assistant at the age of 16. He did this at the weekend while studying for his GNVQs at Bury College. He then spent two seasons as a Club 18-30s holiday rep in Malia, Crete.

When I started my hope was just to pass but as I progressed I realised I was doing well and to graduate with a distinction and the highest score in my year blew my mind.

Ryan came back to England to become an AirTours salesperson and he quickly became the youngest call centre manager in the company, managing 110 staff by the age of 20. He spent 10 years with the firm before moving to Gold Medal Travel, in Preston. He spent three years as the business centre manager before he and his business partner opened a travel agency in Bury.

Ryan was then headhunted by James Cole, Managing Director of World Travel Holdings, to head up a team of 175 at Cruise118. It was during this time he had contact with academics from the University and he was encouraged to go back into study.

“I always regretted not going to university when I was younger and I thought I’d missed my chance,” he said. “It was only when I started working with Dr Carley Sutton, from UCLan, regarding intern placements that she pointed out I’d be welcome to come and study as a mature student. I never thought I’d be good enough and my confidence level was low but it was great.

“When I started my hope was just to pass but as I progressed I realised I was doing well and to graduate with a distinction and the highest score in my year blew my mind. I’m applying what he I’ve learnt in my job and I’m encouraging my staff to go and study at UCLan.”

His wife Gillian added: “We are extremely proud of him. He’s worked so hard and it’s nice that we’ve been able to bring Maisie along to his graduation so she can understand what he’s been working towards.”

Ryan’s personality and significant industry experience added vibrancy to the course, especially his astute observations and consideration of various skills needed in the tourism industry.

Ryan was presented with the University of Central Lancashire Award for the best student on the MA course and he was nominated for the ATHE Best Postgraduate Students in Tourism Programmes award.

Senior lecturer Dot Ujma added: “Ryan’s personality and significant industry experience added vibrancy to the course, especially his astute observations and consideration of various skills needed in the tourism industry. He was always keen to move the subject and his own practice forward - this was epitomised by his management consultancy project entitled ‘How the Introduction of Artificial Intelligence Influences Customer and Employee Engagement in a Call Centre Environment’. The study and the resulting findings have positively impacted upon his own business practice.”

Rachel Atkinson | 11 December 2017