HATS were thrown into the air as hundreds of Southampton Solent University students celebrated their graduation.

And among today's maritime science, engineering, communications, media and marketing graduates were Bill Dixon one of Hampshire's leading yacht designers, shipping boss Alistair Fischbacher and BBC sports journalist Philip McNulty who were each presented with an honorary doctorate.

Philip McNulty was awarded an honorary degree, becoming a doctor of sport.

The chief football reporter from BBC Sport began his career writing for the St Helens Reporter and the Liverpool Daily Post in the 1980s before joining the BBC in 2000.

Since then he has covered World Cups in Japan and South Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil as well as the Euro 2004 in Portugal, the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine and more recently the Euro 2016 tournament in France.

He is also a visiting fellow supporting the university's sports journalism course.

Mr McNulty said: "I was surprised and flattered to be chosen but also delighted because in recent years I've formed a very close relationship with the media department here at Solent.

"When I was first asked to come and speak to the students it wasn't really something I had contemplated doing before but after making the first visit I was delighted that I had and have always been very happy to be invited back."

Meanwhile, Bill Dixon, founder of Swanwick Marina's Dixon Yacht Design became a doctor of technology.

It was not the first time Mr Dixon had found himself in the customary robes, having graduated in 1978 in yacht and boat design at Southampton College of Technology, which later became Southampton Solent University. Since then he has won a number of awards including being named Yacht Designer of the Year in Asia in 2010.

Mr Dixon said: "I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Southampton Solent University for bestowing this prestigious honour on me today.

"Since my early teenage years my ambition was always to be a yacht designer and for me the perfect course to start this journey to fulfil this ambition was the yacht and boat building course at what was then Southampton College of Technology. A course that was and still is today offering a unique degree suited to the demands of our industry. The list of alumni produced by this course is unrivalled in our industry and long may it continue."

And Alistair Fischbacher received an honorary doctorate in maritime studies.

The award recognises Mr Fischbacher's work as chief executive of Sustainable Shipping Initiative, which aims to help shipping leaders work together to cope with changes to the industry. It also recognises his efforts as chair of the Sailors Society, a Christian charity working to provide practical support to seafarers around the globe.

Mr Fischbacher said: “I am extremely proud to be here receiving this award today and also to be a part of the largely unseen but hugely important shipping industry. It has a wealth of opportunity both at sea and ashore. I wish all those starting out in their careers the very best in finding their place whatever they choose."

Almost 2,500 students will be graduating with degrees and professional qualifications from Southampton Solent University during ten ceremonies this week.