SCREEN stars and former students have officially become honorary graduands at Essex University.

Acclaimed film director Stephen Daldry and popular actress Janine Duvitski, received a rapturous reception from students when they received their degrees at a graduation ceremony at the Colchester campus.

Both were previously students at the university’s East 15 Acting School and since then Stephen as gone onto become one of the country’s most distinguished and successful directors.

His portfolio includes Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader and smash hit Netflix TV series The Crown.

During his career he has received eight Bafta nominations, three Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

For his theatre work, he won a Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his directing of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and in 2004, Stephen he was awarded a CBE for his services to drama.

Speaking after today’s graduation ceremony, Stephen said he had always been a fan of Essex University and its “great tradition of rebellion and standing up to authority.”

He said: “We in this country will rely on this in the years to come.

“We are at a very dangerous point in our history and it’s going to be up to the next generation to fight for the rights that we thought would always be there.

“It has always been an independent university that’s always encouraged dissent of one sort or another and my whole career has been about trying to encourage the cracks in the pavement where dissent lies, trying to create a world that is a better place and this university has always been at the very heart of that battle.

“East 15 releases the individual and actually allows them to be who they want to be and in that sense it is independent and rather wonderful.”

Fellow East 15 student Janine Duvitski completed her studies in 1973 and has worked consistently ever since, becoming a regular in some of the nation’s favourite comedies, films and TV shows.

Her credits include acclaimed works such as Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party and Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, along with long-running comedies like Waiting For God, One Foot in the Grave, the popular ITV hit Benidorm as well as 2015’s innovative and ground-breaking Boy Meets Girl.

Along with her television success Janine has also had an acclaimed theatrical career, working at the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic and the English National Opera.

During the graduation ceremony Dr Chris Main, from East 15 Acting School, said: “Janine maintains close links with East 15 and I am delighted to say that she still takes a keen interest in its innovative and strategic developments.

“With an illustrious career spanning over 45 years it is entirely right that we recognise her today with this honour. She is a wonderful ambassador for East 15 and a shining example of the talent that it nurtures and hones.” She said: “I had no belief in being an actor and they gave me all those feelings that I could do it,” she said. “They showed me a way of working so I could work on characters, and lots of plays and improvising, and I got all these new friends and I started, with practise, to feel I could maybe do it. It was amazing for me.

“If you really believe in yourself and don’t give up you will get rejection that happens all the time but if you persevere and keep your dreams going if I can do it anyone can.”