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MP awards graduates at HE ceremony

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Hats away! Graduates celebrate with the traditional throwing in the air of their mortar boards.

Dozens of students from across south west Durham celebrated their success at Bishop Auckland College’s annual HE graduation ceremony.

More than 120 graduates have received their scrolls after years of study in subjects ranging from engineering to teaching, counselling, sport, healthcare, music and performing arts.

They include Kerrie Brown, from Darlington, an Advanced Technical Engineering Apprentice with global power leader Cummins. She has completed her HNC in mechanical engineering at the college’s engineering training partner South West Durham Training.

Kerrie, 28, plans to progress on to an HND then a full engineering degree. She said: “I’d like to work my way up through Cummins and become a chartered engineer. Along the way I hope to experience several departments of interest in order to build up my knowledge and skills.”

Teacher Catherine Douglas, 49, went back to being a student herself to wider her career prospects as she looks to move into college lecturing after three decades working in early years.

Praising the “superb organisation and support of excellent tutors”, the mother-of-one, of Bishop Auckland, who received her PGCE, said: “With a lecturing qualification, my career options will be stronger as a result of having several qualifications that I can teach in. This qualification is very versatile and transferable and I may seek employment in another part of the country or world once my daughter finishes her A levels.”

Returning to the classroom also put Pat Hodgson right into the driving seat. For the 55-year-old gained so much confidence after joining the college to study counselling she decided to take driving lessons – and passed! She has graduated with a Foundation Degree in Counselling.

Pat, of Bishop Auckland, who is married with a 28-year-old son, said: “Counselling is something I had always wanted to study. Four years ago I decided it was now or never. I nervously walked into the college and enquired about enrolling. That began a journey that changed my life and from which I have never looked back.

“I am now going on to compete my honours degree in counselling and continue my work with Butterwick Hospice. Without a doubt doing this course has changed my life – I am so proud of what I have achieved professionally and personally in four years.”

Charlotte Murphy, 20, of Bishop Auckland, (HND Performing Arts) hopes to run her own youth theatre group after completing her degree in technical drama at Lincoln University, which she starts this autumn.

Charlotte has volunteered since she was 14 for local drama groups Shildon Tearaways and Bishop Auckland Theatre Society, and has this year been working at Daisy Arts on show production.

Gareth Brown, 34, from Durham City, (HND Sport) dedicates his free time to helping other disabled people take part in sport. He works as an assistant project officer and disability sports coach for SMILE Through Sport, an organisation which promotes and delivers disability sport, and volunteers for Boccia England, the national governing body for the Paralympic sport.

Accounts manager Rachel Flowers, 37, of Darlington, (FD Counselling) hopes to become a counsellor and completes her honours degree at the University of Sunderland in September.

She said: “The course has been challenging, life changing and incredible. Bishop Auckland College is a lovely place to study with very supportive tutors.”

Drummer Jimmy ‘Stix’ Robinson has travelled the world playing with bands for 50 years, but has proved an old dog is never too old to learn new tricks. The 68-year-old has passed his HND in Music and will also complete his degree at the University of Sunderland over the next year.

The father-of-six, of Bishop Auckland, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the college. Mixing with all age ranges, passing on my experience to younger students and learning from them, has been a wonderful experience.”

Addressing the ceremony at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, guest speaker Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman said: “Learning is a lifelong process and tonight was a fantastic celebration of this. The successes were achieved through hard work which demonstrate that the students receiving their certificates and awards tonight will continue to achieve, whether in the work place, benefiting their communities or in further studies.”

The college is also celebrating its own Higher Education achievement, having just received a bronze award in the Teaching Excellence Framework ratings “for delivering teaching, learning and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education”.

The TEF awards are decided by an independent panel of experts comprising students and academics, measuring excellence in three areas: teaching quality; the learning environment; and the educational and professional outcomes achieved by students.

College Principal and Chief Executive Natalie Davison-Terranova added: “The graduation ceremony is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication for each student and I would like to congratulate every graduate for their own personal success story and wish them well.”

The college offers HE courses in a wide range of subjects including HNCs in engineering, HNDs in business, public services, art & design and sport, Foundation Degrees and Higher Apprenticeships. Applications are being taken now for HE courses starting in September.