Grace Dent became an honorary fellow of the University of Cumbria at Carlisle Cathedral - an experience she described as “quite surreal”.

The writer and broadcaster, who grew up in Currock, was recognised for outstanding service to the media industry.

Grace, 46, writes for The Guardian, among other national publications, has written a dozen books, and has appeared on TV programmes including Masterchef, The Great British Menu and Have I Got News For You.

Why was yesterday’s recognition surreal? “When I lived in Carlisle during my teen years I spent a lot of time around the cathedral area with my gang,” she told The Cumberland News. “In The Boardroom, Binn’s café, The Fratry. From hanging around here to being a focus of this ceremony is really odd.

“I think some people who knew me then will be incredibly surprised. I wasn’t top of the class. I didn’t strive to be a leader in a corporate world. I always wanted to be a writer and to make documentaries. And it’s lovely to be celebrated for something that isn’t necessarily making tons of money and employing lots of people. What I do is just heartfelt.

“People say you can have a great career without academia. I still believe there’s great value in learning for learning’s sake, not just with a view to making millions of pounds. And I firmly believe Cumbria is such a wonderful place to give three years of your life to.”

Grace studied English Literature at the University of Stirling and says she did enough to graduate but not a great deal more. “I always had one eye on coming to London, being a columnist and doing TV. I’ve got the strongest work ethic I’ve ever had now. I’m up at five most mornings with at least one column to do. I work on other things for the rest of the day. I love working.”

A strong work ethic is one aspect of her advice to graduates. “My message would be, it feels hard now. And you have to get comfortable with the hardness of it because that never quite goes away. But if you’re doing something you love every day, that’s exciting.

“The media especially is every bit as middle-class and upper-class and privileged and difficult to get into as you’ve heard. I hope people from Currock and Upperby and Morton can see that it will be hard, but with a bit of tenacity you can get there. Rock bottom happens at least three times a year. And you bounce back.”

Grace had ended her speech with a tribute to the university’s “amazing” arts graduates, all of whom, she said, “are going out in the world with the sole aim of stealing my job. I’m going to have to raise my game.”

Her mother Grace, brother Dave, sister-in-law Tam and niece Lola were at the ceremony. Grace junior hoped that being recognised by the university would “put an end to some of the worry they’ve probably had about me for the last three decades: that I’m putting myself in an insecure position, being in London, always being freelance.”

“I’m very proud of her,” said her mum. “It’s a huge honour.”

“She’s worked hard,” said Dave. “It’s nice to see someone from Currock getting recognition. She hasn’t changed.”

Grace wore a cap and gown during the ceremony. “I don’t want to give them back,” she said. “I’ve never felt so regal.”