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Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and Ruth Jones Honoured by The Open University in Wales

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Welsh actor, comedian, author, writer and producer Ruth Jones was presented with an honorary degree from The Open University (OU) in Wales during a graduation ceremony at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Wales in Newport this month.

She was joined by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who also received an honorary degree.

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Louise Casella and Ruth Jones MBE

Sabrina was born in Newport. Her father died when she was nine, and at the age of 15, she was made homeless. Despite these unimaginably difficult challenges, including experiencing anti-semitic hate crime while sleeping rough, she continued to work towards her GCSEs. At 18, she joined South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and went on to graduate with a degree in Psychology at The Open University. She later completed a PhD at Cardiff University.

She is now the Chief Fire Officer in West Sussex and one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK. She is the National Fire Chiefs Council’s lead officer for International, liaising with Fire and Rescue Services around the world to share best practice and bring learning to the UK.

Sabrina is an honorary fellow of Cardiff University, and in 2019 published her memoir, The Heat of the Moment, where she recounts the challenges of her teenage years, and her life as a fire-fighter.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton said:

“I have fond memories of my time at The Open University. I made life-long friends who remain a part of my life to this day. I am incredibly proud of the way The Open University tears down traditional barriers to learning through its pragmatic and flexible approaches. It improves the life chances of so many for whom a full time degree would not balance with the demands of their lives. It helped me achieve the social mobility that I enjoy today and I am so proud to be an Alumni, and even prouder to have an Honorary doctorate bestowed by this incredible institution.”

Ruth Jones was born in Bridgend. She trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and went on to work at the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Ruth’s screen credits include East Is East, Emma and Fat Friends. Together with her long-time writing partner James Corden, she created the BBC One hit Gavin and Stacey, in which she memorably played Nessa, Stacey’s closest friend. In 2008, Ruth set up Tidy Productions with her husband, co-creating Stella for Sky 1, in which Ruth played the titular role.

Ruth’s first two novels, Never Greener and Us Three, were Sunday Times Bestsellers, and Us Three won her a Comedy Women in Print Award. Her third novel, Love Untold, came out in September and was itself an instant Sunday Times Bestseller. In 2013 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Warwick University and in 2014 she was presented with an MBE for services to entertainment.

Ruth Jones said:

“It’s an immense privilege to be given an honorary doctorate from The Open University – an institution I have always respected and admired for its inclusivity and openness to all. It epitomizes positivity and potential fulfilment which is no small thing in this day and age! In the words of my alter ego Nessa Jenkins, receiving this honorary doctorate is ‘tidy, lush and crackin’.”

Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales added:

“Today we welcome two more inspiring Welsh women into our distinguished list of honorary graduates. Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has a remarkable story – one which shows the power education has to change someone’s life. Not only was she able to improve her own circumstances despite all the challenges she faced, she has also used her position to influence policy and practice in the emergency services. We’re doubly proud that she began her university life with us, and that she’s returned to the OU in Wales to accept this honorary degree.

“Ruth Jones has been a regular fixture on televisions across Wales and the UK for almost two decades. She played one of comedy’s best loved characters Nessa in Gavin and Stacey, a programme which made her and her collaborators household names. As an actor, she has also appeared on radio and the stage, playing dramatic and comic roles with equal skill. Ruth has also made a lasting contribution to the arts behind the camera – both as a producer and writer for the screen, and more recently as an accomplished author.”

Some 600 students graduated from the OU in Wales on Friday, most of whom enrolled with the OU part-time, often balancing their studies with work, family life or caring for a relative.