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Top rugby players celebrate their graduation at Northumbria University

9th July 2015

Professional rugby players swapped their shorts for robes when they joined this year’s graduate cohort at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Members of the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) are celebrating after gaining the University’s BA (Hons) Leadership and Management degree (BALM).

The degree is designed by the RPA, working closely with Northumbria University, to match a professional rugby player’s needs and provide an opportunity for members to study around their sporting careers.

The eight graduates awarded in March and June this year include Jonny Arr, Nick Koster, Matt Mullan, Nikki Walker, Jordi Pasqualin, Jake Abbott and Kane Palma-Newport.

Pasqualin, who most recently played for London Scottish and Abbott, formerly of Premiership side Worcester Warriors, have been awarded an Ede and Ravenscroft prize for their outstanding performance during the programme.

With over 70 rugby players currently studying at the University, Dr Guy Brown, who heads up Northumbria’s Corporate and Executive Development Centre, said the programme was going from strength to strength.

He said: “Once again the RPA rugby players’ cohort has excelled in their studies on the BA (Hons) Leadership and Management programme.   

“As sports professionals they are able to draw upon their leadership capabilities from the playing field and identify opportunities for further improvement. 

“We are delighted too that many of the players this year have additionally been able to use the skills and knowledge developed on this programme to meet their post playing career aspirations.  A fantastic achievement by all involved.”

Bath Rugby prop, Palma-Newport, was one player who thoroughly enjoyed the degree, saying it gave him a tremendous sense of achievement and reward.

“It’s been a terrific feeling for me personally,” he said. “I’ve worked extremely hard to juggle my degree around my rugby and to finally finish is fantastic.”

The 24-year-old, who graduated from the degree in June, spoke of how pleasing it was to have a course such as this in place.

He said: “It’s always hard to find the motivation after a long day of training to open up your laptop and study, but this degree does make it a lot easier.

“The support you receive throughout the course is fantastic, not to mention the ability to study alongside your teammates and bounce ideas of one another has been great.

“Especially given how hectic rugby can sometimes be, it’s great to know the RPA has gone to the effort of building this degree from the ground up and working closely with Northumbria University to generate a brilliant initiative to support its members.”

Kane also spoke about what he found to be the most beneficial aspect of the degree, highlighting the role of a leader as his main draw card.

With the degree under his belt, and vital experience acquired along the way, Kane has now turned his attention to encouraging fellow rugby players to enrol on the course.

He added: “It’s such a brilliant feeling to have graduated from a fantastic degree and I strongly urge my fellow players to apply for the course and take the opportunity while it’s staring you in the face.

“Now is the perfect time to cement your future and really build a successful post-rugby career.”

If you would like to know more about the Leadership and Management degree visit

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