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Award for lecturer whose goal is to inspire

A college lecturer who compares his job to managing a football team has won an award for inspiring a former factory manager to take up a PhD and teach at university.

Leo Murphy taught Sharon Loane on a business degree nine years ago at Omagh College in Northern Ireland. In return, she nominated him for one of the University and College Union's first Life Changer awards.

Dr Loane hoped extra qualifications would help her win promotion at the company where she worked supplying clothes for Marks amp; Spencer. But when the jobs went abroad, Mr Murphy saw her academic potential and urged her to become a lecturer. Mr Murphy, now head of curriculum and business development at the college, paid tribute to colleagues Tom McBraid, Margaret Johnson and Richard Doke, and said talent-spotting was part of the job.

"FE is like being manager of Scunthorpe United and seeing someone good enough to play for Manchester United - it would be a crime not to encourage them to go," he said. "Except we don't get transfer fees, of course."

Now Dr Loane is a lecturer in business economics at the University of Ulster, and is invited to lecture from New York to New Zealand. She said:

"My challenge was that if I can inspire one student the way Leo inspired me, I will retire happy."

As part of the award, winners get pound;300 for educational purposes, and Mr Murphy has donated his to his student hardship fund.

Other winners at the ceremony, held last week in Westminster, included Jane Hadcock and Katherine Chisnell from Colchester Adult Community College for their dedication to teaching English for speakers of other languages and lobbying against plans to charge students.

Sally Wilcox, Carol Hakins and Jim Addison were recognised for their success in giving adults a second chance to enter higher education through access courses, as A-level provision in FE is cut back.

Carolyn Harries also received an award for inspiring future generations of teachers at Coleg Sir Gar in Wales.

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