DRESSED in distinguished black and purple gowns, graduates of Sparsholt College have celebrated three years of studying.

Joined by special guest Alastair Stewart, 750 former students proudly lined up to take home their degrees as proud parents and teachers looked on at Winchester Cathedral.

Sarah Brierley, 21, who lives in Weeke, studied Animal Management. She travelled down from her home in York with her mum and dad, Mark and Jane, and her older brother David.

Sarah said: “I’m really excited. One of my friends dropped out she was so nervous but I think it’s a big deal. It’s quite momentous and I’m not going to get to do this again.

“I’d like to go into conservation work, preferably in zoos first of all, but long term I’d like to do some research. I’m quite taken by anti-poaching methods so I’d like to travel to somewhere like Africa. That would be great.”

Mrs Brierley said: “It’s just such a happy day. Today is all of the hard work from the last three years.”

Jade Masters, 21, of Liss, near Petersfield, also graduated in Animal Management. She said: “I feel nervous but also excited. It’s really weird not having anything to do now! I haven’t got any massive future plans but hopefully I’ll do something with insects. I find them really interesting because there are so many different types.”

ITV national news anchor and Sparsholt College advocate Alastair Stewart OBE presented the diplomas, certificates and degree awards. He said: “I was born in Hampshire, I live with my family in Hampshire and the college is one of its most precious assets – for what it does and for what it stands for.

“Education matters, enormously. None of us can do much without it. But there is a world of difference between acquiescing to it and grasping it with conviction and ambition to take from it what you want, to do what you want to do and to be who you want to be. That is what you have done. That is what you will do.”

While most graduates focused on their day, one former student was busy planning his next move having already launched his own gardening business.

Josh Hibberd, 22, of the Isle of Wight, graduated with a foundation degree in Garden Design.

“I’ve started up my own business, Island Garden Care, and hopefully it will develop,” he said. “I’m so relieved to have everything done now and it’s nice to get it all finished. It’s good to see everyone but it’s also a bit sad that it’s coming to an end.”