Graduates, their guests and staff from Hugh Baird College’s University Centre last week celebrated student success at their first ever Higher Education (HE) graduation ceremony. Opened in 2014 as an affordable, aspirational and logical progression route for students from the College and those living in the region, the Hugh Baird University Centre now offers 17 foundation degrees and 13 full honours degrees along with a range of professional development courses. Most courses can be studied part time and all foundation degrees and full honours degrees are validated and approved by The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Colette Mawdsley, Dean of Higher Education at the Hugh Baird University Centre said: As an organisation, we recognised the ability and talent that many of our students possessed, but we also discovered that large numbers of our learners just didn’t believe that university level study was something they could achieve or something they even deserved. It was something that ‘other’ people did. We realised that it wasn’t right that many within our local community were passing up the opportunity to further develop themselves because they didn’t have the confidence or financial means to go to a large university or they thought that they couldn’t because they’d had a family. So we decided to do something about it and set about developing a curriculum that not only provided clear progression routes for our learners, but also gave them the high level skills needed to embark on careers in the key economic growth areas of the Liverpool City Region. Our first event Graduation Ceremony is testament to the hard work of all our graduates, but it was also an opportunity to celebrate the dedication of staff from right across the College who have all contributed to making the University Centre a reality. Those in attendance at the ceremony heard about a number of inspirational educational journeys from graduates picking up special achievement awards, but none were more moving and impressive than that of Thomas Rothwell. Tom first joined the college on a Level 2 course in Art and Design after having had a challenging time at a number of local schools. At the age of 16 years by his own admission, he felt forgotten about and had a low opinion of himself. Although he had excellent practical skills in 3D building and designing, these skills went unnoticed and he was not given the chance to flourish and develop. This was not the case when he joined Hugh Baird College. He successfully completed his Level 2 course and moved on to higher level study at the College before progressing on to study for a Foundation Degree in Visual Merchandising and Promotional Design at the University Centre. He achieved a Distinction grade in his foundation degree and then decided to study for a full BA (Hons) degree. In June of 2018, Tom was delighted to hear he’d not only gained a full degree, but had also achieved a First Class pass grade. Speaking after the ceremony, Tom said: The ceremony today was amazing. It was nice to be recognised for what I’ve achieved but none of it would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the amazing staff at Hugh Baird College and the Hugh Baird University Centre. They are supportive and really go out of their way to help each and every student. The student support really is second to none and I would like to thank all the staff who supported me while I studied here. Tim Steele, The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Executive Director for International Strategy and Partnerships said: I was delighted to officiate at the first award ceremony with High Baird College and University Centre as we celebrated the success of the latest graduates to come out of this longstanding partnership. UCLan is very proud to provide access to students in their local community which underpins UCLan’s approach to Widening Participation, and our approach to Working in Partnership, to Work with Place, People and to Work with Potential. It was clear from the reaction from all the families, friends and the High Baird University Centre academic faculty how proud everyone was of the graduates, many of whom have overcome personal challenges and combined study with work. I look forward to continue to work with the college as we look to further strengthen our partnership. For a full gallery of images from the event, please visit http://bit.ly/2FHYYH5.