Seven colleges scoop royal prize for further education

'Ground-breaking' college initiatives in space engineering, nuclear and maritime among this year's Queen's Anniversary Prize winners

'Ground-breaking' college initiatives in space engineering, nuclear and maritime among this year's Queen's Anniversary Prize winners

A record number of UK further education colleges have been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Seven colleges were honoured this evening at a special reception at St James’s Palace, alongside 15 universities.

The awards, launched in 1994 and held every two years, are described as the “highest national honour in education” by organisers The Royal Anniversary Trust. Winning applications were signed off by the King on the advice of the prime minister.

Applicants must prove that they offer “very high quality and an example of the best the UK can do” in a particular subject, field or discipline, according to the trust.

No more than six colleges have been awarded the prize in any of the previous 14 award rounds. These latest winners bring the total number of UK colleges holding the prize to 59.

Sir Damon Buffini, chair of The Royal Anniversary Trust said: “The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education are an integral part of our national honours system, shining a light on the ground-breaking work taking place in universities and colleges across the UK. 

“All 22 prize-winners demonstrate excellence, innovation and impact, with many tackling some of the toughest problems we as a society face today. They are to be commended for reaching this pinnacle of achievement in the tertiary education sector.”

Winners are presented with a silver-gilt prize medal, a certificate signed by the King, a special logo to use on college materials and are invited to an investiture presentation at Buckingham Palace.

Here is a run-down of this year’s college winners in England:

Loughborough College has been awarded the prize for its space engineering programme, run with the National Space Academy. Aimed at aspiring engineers, physicists and astronauts, the programme combines A levels in maths and physics with the BTEC national diploma in engineering to create a “unique and world-class” course for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Jo Maher, Loughborough College principal, said: “We are so proud to have received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our outstanding space engineering programme.

“Space engineering is our most academically demanding course and the destinations of our outstanding students are a testament to the success of this programme, which prepares them for the rigours of studying and working in the thriving aerospace industry.”

Bridgwater and Taunton College has been recognised as the first FE college to run nursing degrees in response to Somerset’s critical NHS workforce shortages.

Principal Andy Berry said: “By delivering nursing degrees right here in Somerset, we have not only expanded career horizons for our community but also made a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of our residents.

“This initiative demonstrates our dedication to meeting local workforce demands and retaining local talent.”

Also among this year’s winners is City College Plymouth for the work of its Centre of Higher Technical Innovation and Maritime Skills and its “international reputation for excellence” in the maritime sector.

Principal Jackie Grubb said she was “proud and delighted that the college’s expertise and commitment to developing skills has been recognised as an example of excellence”.

Hopwood Hall College and University Centre’s “trauma-informed approach” to widening participation has contributed to a growing number of traditionally disengaged and marginalised young people entering and succeeding in FE.

Principal Julia Heap said she was “so proud of the professionalism of our staff teams in embracing this nurturing framework and the impact it has had on widening participation for marginalised young people”.

She added: “This prestigious award only fuels our determination to keep removing obstacles to accessing education and making sure that all young people – regardless of the social and mental health issues that may have affected their life chances – have the opportunity to reach their potential and truly thrive.”

Plumpton College’s programmes for the English wine industry spanning nearly 40 years caught the attention of the selection panel. Courses now include apprenticeships, introductory wine academies, CPD courses and degrees. 

The college has its very own vineyard and winery, and its graduates produce “a real competitor to champagne and sparkling wines”.

Julie Dougill, chair of Plumpton College, said she was “deeply honoured” to receive the prize. “It is a testament to our unwavering commitment to excellence in wine training and education as leaders in this field,” she added.

Lakes College West Cumbria received the prize for its approach to training higher-level technicians in the UK’s nuclear and low-carbon sectors. The college said its “innovative and transferable” training model, accredited by the National College for Nuclear, is being used across a growing network of providers across the UK.

Principal Chris Nattress praised the “hard work, creativity, dedication and talent” of his staff, as well as “learners, employers and partners who continue to support us in our first-class endeavour”.

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