Walsall College’s higher education students paraded to Walsall Town Hall in their caps and gowns on 10th November, to officially open their formal Graduation Ceremony.
More than 100 students stopped traffic during the parade as Town Crier Cyril Richardson led the procession, shouting about their success on higher education courses and proclaiming the college as ‘the best in the land.’
Shoppers watched as the parade made its way down Park Street and Bridge Street, before arriving at the grade II listed building.
Over 350 guests attended the annual ceremony, including students, lecturers, family and friends. The high achieving students received certificates for success on courses such as Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), Higher National Certificates (HNCs), Top-Up Degrees and Foundation Degrees in the college’s clusters: Business & Computing, Professional Development, Creative Industries, Construction, Engineering & Science, Health & Public Services, Services to People and Employer Responsive. Seven special awards were also presented to students for excelling during their courses.
Taylor Bird, who graduated with a BA Degree Level 6 Photographer, won the overall Student of the Year award, as well as the accolade for the Creative Industries Student of the Year.
Bullied at school because of her learning and physical disabilities, Taylor found school difficult and gained very few GCSEs. However, when she enrolled at Walsall College, Taylor discovered that her differences were accepted and she found a supportive environment where she could express herself.
Taylor joined Walsall College’s Achieving Together programme before choosing a creative pathway and worked hard to complete entry level English and maths as well as Level 2 and 3 Art and Design. This led her to progress onto a photography degree; becoming the second person in her family to go to university. Taylor has set up her own photography business and plans to expand in the future.
Earlier this year, Taylor was announced as the Festival of Learning National Young Adult Award for her exceptional achievement in adult learning. This award celebrates individuals between 18-25 years of age who, through learning, have transformed their own lives and the lives of their families, friends, their communities, and the places they work.
Taylor says that learning has had a major impact on her life. She said: “I’m now a lot more confident in my own skills and this has helped to me find the right path, develop my communication skills and set up my own business.”
Level 3 students considering their options for next year were also invited to attend the ceremony, as part of the Aspire project.
In partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, Walsall College is part of the Aspire to HE project, aimed at encouraging more young people to consider progressing on to higher education.
Aspire to HE is a partnership funded through the government’s National Collaborative Outreach Programme and led by the University of Wolverhampton to support the government’s aims of doubling the number of young people from ‘disadvantaged backgrounds’ to higher education by 2020.
In the current economic climate, studying higher education courses at college is increasingly popular, giving students a more cost effective route to achieving a university degree. Many of the students who graduated will now be going on to top up to degree level or to put their skills to use in the workplace.
Jatinder Sharma OBE, Walsall College’s Principal and Chief Executive, said: “The 2017 HI:ED Graduation Ceremony was a celebration of what our higher education students have achieved. They are role models within their communities, as they have done themselves and their families proud to become skilled, professional and enterprising.
“Our students have achieved what they set out to accomplish and should be extremely proud of their achievements. I speak on behalf of everybody when I wish them every success in the future.
“Our overriding ambition is to give students the best possible platform from which to develop successful careers – both now and well into the future.
Looking ahead, we aim to continue our university partnerships, ensuring that our HE students develop the knowledge they need to enter the industry they wish to enter. Our courses are designed with industry input and are taught by expert tutors to give our students the skills that employers tell us they want. There has never been a better time to study a HI:ED course at Walsall College.”