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Were the University of Portsmouth to offer a Strangest Place in Which to Write a Dissertation Award as part of its annual graduation ceremony, then the clever money would be riding on it being won hands down by Richard Speckley.

As we report today, the Sussex police officer completed the final year of his education and training degree course in Afghanistan while on secondment with the Military Provost Staff.

And is if being thousands of miles away from home and family wasn’t enough of a distraction, he completed his dissertation in the teeth of a ferocious sandstorm.

Little wonder then that he was proud as punch as he prepared to collect his 2:1 degree today in the slightly less climatically-challenged surroundings of Portsmouth Guildhall.

For Richard the ceremony marked the successful completion of a personal challenge.

And although perhaps few if any of them endured a sandstorm during their studies, the same can be said for the several thousand students who will graduate in Portsmouth during the week of ceremonies that begin today.

For each, the degree course has represented an almighty challenge that will help to shape the rest of their lives.

Richard’s degree is intended to hold him in good stead for the long-term as he begins to plan for life after the police force.

For most of this year’s cohort of graduates though, the qualification will be of more immediate use.

They go into a world outside university in which job prospects are not at a buoyant high. We wish all of them well in what is an uncertain present – although we hope not an uncertain future.

The same could perhaps be said for the university itself, as like Britain’s other seats of learning it prepares for the change that will inevitably be forced by the radical changes in students’ fees introduced by the Government.

We are confident that, as it prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of its transition from Portsmouth Polytechnic, it will fare well. We wish the same for Richard and his fellow graduates.

g under the MPS, which specialises in detention and handling military crimes.

After finishing the second year of his degree, the university put together a distance learning programme so Richard could complete his final year in Afghanistan. He rose through the ranks as a member of the Territorial Army before joining the MPS abroad last September.

The father-of- two will be awarded a 2:1 for his degree today at the city’s Guildhall.

The 38-year-old, from Kings Avenue, Chichester, said: ‘It was tough, but I enjoyed every second of it.

‘My education proved to be a valuable distraction to the duties I had to perform out there.’

But the pressure didn’t unnerve him. Yorkshire-born Richard achieved a first class award for his dissertation, which he wrote in the middle of a desert sandstorm.

He said: ‘It was a Sunday afternoon and I was sat doing my dissertation right in the middle of a ferocious sandstorm.

‘It was a surreal experience and amazing I could actually concentrate on doing anything.

‘But I got it done, got a fantastic grade and it’s something I’ll always take with me.’

He couldn’t access his final year course material in Afghanistan, which proved challenging.

‘I had to take all my second year work with me and managed to email the university my assignments,’ he said.

‘But they were very flexible and gave me plenty of time to complete everything which was brilliant.’

It will be back to law and order for Richard as he uses his new skills to teach at Sussex police department, where he has been an officer for 20 years.

He previously completed a diploma in education and training to join the force. Now his bachelor degree success will see him start a masters in education, training and m anagement from September.

He said: ‘I wanted to continue with my studies and further my career.

‘I’ve only got 10 years left in the police so I’m looking to the future and the options available to me. I can’t thank the British Army enough and my family have been there every step of the way.’