JUBILANT scenes erupted as Sunderland College students donned gowns and mortar boards to celebrate their graduation.
More than 180 students were honoured at the college’s annual graduation and awards ceremony, sponsored by ZF, Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland Empire and DFDS.
The special event, held at the Quayside Exchange, featured the presentation of nine adult student awards and welcomed the college’s inaugural honorary fellow.
Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive of Sunderland College, said: “Our graduation celebrations are always an important date in the college’s diary, and it is with great pride that we honour our graduates and highlight the successes of our higher education students.
“They have shown a high level of dedication and endeavour in order to get to this point, and their efforts are truly remarkable. We are very pleased to have played an integral role in helping our graduates to meet their academic aspirations. Our lecturers and support staff have been their every step of the way to guide our students to success, and that is what makes our graduation ceremonies such a special event – it truly is a college-wide celebration.”
This year the college introduced its first honorary fellowship award, which recognises the outstanding service of a distinguished person to the college or the Sunderland district.
Philip Foster, chief operating officer of Sunderland Care and Support, was awarded the coveted title in recognition of his services to the health and care sector in the city and his commitment to training and education.
He said: “I am very proud to receive Sunderland College’s first honorary fellowship. I feel this award is really recognition of the work of the all members of staff who work so hard in both Sunderland Care and Support and Sunderland Council to provide the very best of care and support for the people of Sunderland.
“Over the years I have worked closely with Sunderland College to help develop a wide range of learning, training and apprenticeship opportunities for care staff and for people interested in a career in the care sector. Sunderland College is an outstanding provider of all aspects of education and training within Sunderland and the North East and therefore, I am extremely grateful to have received this honour from them.”
Rob Lawson, chair of Sunderland College’s Board of Governors, presented Philip with the honorary fellowship and a symbolic graduation hood. He said: “We introduced this special award in order to show our respect and appreciation for an individual who has gone above and beyond for the benefit of our community. Philip embodies this very notion, and continually strives to improve the lives of many people in Sunderland and the surrounding area. It was a privilege to present this award to Philip and to publicly thank him for all he has done for our community.”
The graduation ceremonies, which took place on Friday, included keynote speeches by James Ramsbotham, chief executive of North East England Chamber of Commerce, and John Barnett, vice president (manufacturing and supply chain management) at Calsonic Kansei and a Sunderland College governor.
They were also attended by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris Macknight, and the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Lynda Scanlan.
One of the high achieving students was Leanne Mitchinson who graduated with a distinction in her HND Travel and Tourism Management course and scooped the ‘Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Travel and Tourism Student’.
And it was a triple celebration for Leanne, from Sunderland, who turned 29 on the same day. She said: “It has been great to celebrate with my very good friends from the college who I’ve got to know well over the last two years. I thoroughly enjoyed college, I’ve made some friends for life and I’m now well on my way to starting my new career as a manger within the tourism and hospitality industry. It’s never too late to go back to education and my only regret is I wish I’d done it sooner.”
Another star student, Ben Croft, graduated from his HNC Electrical and Electronic Engineering course with a distinction and also jointly won ‘The Award for Best Performance on an Engineering Programme’, along with his classmate Jonathan Arthur.
Ben, from East Boldon, is undertaking a traineeship with Balfour Beatty Power, Transmission and Distribution, and is also continuing his studies at Sunderland College to top up his course to HND level.
The 23-year-old, who was selected along with Jonathan to lead the students’ vote of thanks during the graduation ceremony, said: “I’m very pleased that my hard work has been recognised, however everyone in my class deserves recognition – we all worked extremely hard to get through our HNC. I have no doubt that everyone graduating from my course will be very successful in whatever they do and rest assured there is a cracking bunch of young, bright engineers out there.”
Sunderland College has more than 600 higher education students and offers more than 35 Foundation Degree and Higher National Courses across a range of subjects including engineering, construction, travel and tourism, sport, performing arts, art and design, photography, counselling, health and social care, education, early years and IT.
It was recently awarded a silver rating in the Government’s newly-launched Teaching and Excellence Framework which looks at the level of teaching, facilities and outcomes of students in higher education establishments in the UK.