FIRST-class honours have been showered upon four Newport business students at the University of Wales College, Newport (UWCN).

Rachel Howells, Mary Smith, Caroline Carr and Angela Tipping all studied at the school of business and management and were notified of their outstanding performances last week.

In previous years the school has achieved one or two firsts, but four is a new record. Ms Howells, 27, from Bassaleg, studied business administration.

She said: "I'm ecstatic about gaining a first. "It's the perfect end to two years of very hard work.

"I'm now looking for a job in marketing and PR, and this degree should help make it easier to find the right job."

Ms Smith, from Allt-yr-yn, gained her degree after a three-year business and legal studies course.

"I'm absolutely delighted," she said. "This result makes all the hard work worthwhile.

"After doing this course, I now have a job lined up as a legal assistant with Eversheds solicitors in Cardiff."

Ms Smith returned to education after spending nine years at home bringing up her two children, Rebecca, 16, and Catherine, 14.

At 43, she was the eldest of fifteen students in her class by a significant margin. She said: "They all seemed very young to me, but I'm glad to say that age hasn't been a barrier.

"I've learned from the younger people on the course and they've learned from me. "In fact, they voted me their student rep for the three years."

Ms Tipping, 25, took her degree in accounting and finance.

She said: "I can't believe I managed a first: it's amazing! I'm now going to take a holiday and then look for a job leading to chartered accountant qualifications."

Ms Carr, 39, from Magor, was "absolutely thrilled" with her BSc in accounting and finance.

"The course lived up to all my expectations and I feel well- equipped for the future," she said.

Ms Carr is only the second person in 13 years to complete the course with straight As. It's all the more creditable that she managed this while bringing up her children Jordan, 12 and Jack, 8.

Being the eldest of 18 students on her course did not bother Ms Carr. "I became their mum, their counsellor and their student rep.

"It was great," she said.

David Orford, one of the business and management school's subject leaders, said: "This was an outstanding result for four very hard-working students.

"It was also a ringing endorsement of UWCN's business, management and accountancy courses, all of which were recently given top marks by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for higher education."

* Pictured, left to right, are business students Nancy Smith, Caroline Carr, Angela Tipping and Rachel Howells