2018 SOTY Awards

The student of the year awards highlight the exceptional achievement of students and the support they have received from their college and staff.

This is an opportunity to highlight the outstanding – someone who has achieved, whether in competitions or overcoming adversity; the contribution that someone has made to the college and/or the wider community; and the inspirational nature of these accomplishments.

The winners of each category were announced at the AoC Conference in November and a reception to further celebrate the achievements of the students and their colleges was held in Westminster in March. 

Further information about AoC Student of the Year Awards 2019 will follow shortly.

This year's finalists and winners:


Young Student of the Year (16 to 18-years-old)

Sponsored by

Adam Dufresne (Winner)

Bournemouth & Poole College

Adam Dufresne, from Bournemouth & Poole College, through personal achievement and contribution to the college community has shown himself to be an exceptional individual.

Not only is Adam is achieving the highest grades in his assessments, he continues to make huge contributions to college life.

Adam has made a significant contribution to CLICK – the care leavers’ forum for Bournemouth Borough Council, attending weekly sessions accruing over 100 hours volunteering.

Adam has presented a new version of The Promise (our pledge to looked after children) to Bournemouth Cabinet.

Adam has been involved in the creation of Willow’s Story. This shows the journey of a child through the care system, and highlight how it feels when decisions are made about their lives. This performance was first delivered at the Family Justice Board Conference – attended by over 150 people, including judges, barristers, solicitors, family court representatives and social workers and Judge Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales.

Adam has also represented the college at the British Indoor Rowing Championships and is now working towards his Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Adam’s input, passion to make change, and involvement in college life and groups he participates on has been truly inspiring. He is determined to become a social worker and improve the lives of other young people.

Rebecca Nye (runner-up)

City College Southampton

Rebecca Nye, from City College Southampton, has an incredible work ethic and attitude which was clear from day one.  Her dedication to the course was shown not only through her hard work but also through her willingness to share her skills and time with both her peers and the local community.

Rebecca passed her two-year BTEC Extended Diploma in Production Arts course with D*D*D* (the highest grade possible).

Whilst studying Rebecca worked part-time at The Point and The Berry theatres as a technician. Alongside this she worked as a technical manager for three amateur dramatics companies and was heavily involved in drama festivals located across London and the South Coast.

Living in Southampton, Rebecca is always keen to help out with local amateur dramatic productions and share her knowledge and passion for production arts. She has also worked voluntarily with primary schools.

Rebecca has excelled both academically and socially in a traditionally male dominated area of the theatre world.  Not many women enter into the technical side of theatre and entertainment work, especially production management. She entered the area with an ability to completely hold her own. She was willing to get stuck in with every job and every aspect of her course.  The fact that she pushed herself as far as possible shows just how passionate she is about the industry.

She was nominated for the Student of the Year awards at City College Southampton continues with her education at the Guilford School of Acting with a BA (Hons) in Theatre Production.

Rebecca has high aspirations to pursue a life-long career in stage/production management. We are confident that with her passion, grit and determination she will fulfil that dream.


Jephta Asamoah (runner-up)

Barking and Dagenham College

Jephta Asamoah, from Barking & Dagenham College, is an exceptional student who has not only achieved the highest possible grades for his BTEC Extended Diploma – a triple distinction, but also been a fantastic ambassador for the college and advocate for students.

Jephta who is deaf, explains: “I was a frustrated and angry young man, fed up of being told that I couldn’t do things because of my disability. Now, I’m working with directors and CEOs and I’m off to study Politics at Lancaster University.”

He  is a great advocate for students with disabilities and has worked with the College to support the enhancement of wider wrap-around support for students with mental health issues; he has given up his own personal time to become part of the Technical Skills Academy Board as an advocate of the student voice.  On the Board, Jephta has promoted support for mental health and has successfully challenged mind sets and perceptions.

In June, Jephta was recognised at the college’s annual Excellence Awards which celebrate the special achievements of students; Jephta was named overall Student of the Year. Jephta also beat thousands of students across the UK to be named the Leidos & Career Ready UK Student of the Year.

Jephta is an inspiration to fellow students, staff and people in the wider community. He is a true inspiration to young people with disabilities; he is living proof that nothing in life should hold you back from achieving your dreams.


Adult Student of the Year (19+)

Sponsored by

Stephanie Gilbert (Winner)

Cornwall College

Stephanie, from Cornwall College, is an impeccable ambassador for adult education, colleges and the wider spirit of achievement through education.

Stephanie is a skilled roofer and enrolled at the college when she decided on a career change. During her time at the college Stephanie has excelled in her studies, whilst also juggling significant care responsibilities at home and giving back to the community through volunteer work.

Stephanie has been a champion through volunteering and working as trustee of a non-profit making organisation that provides support for people involved within the Transgender community. She is also a dementia friend, supporting others with the challenges of looking after people with the condition.

Stephanie is an exceptional woman and a credit to adult learners across the country.

Her story is inspiring and she is an important role model within the college and the wider community. Stephanie also reached the finals of the National Diversity Awards LGBT.

Adrian Swallow (runner-up)

The Northern College

Adrian, from the Northern College, has made a huge contribution to the life of his fellow students and the wider college community.  He is widely respected by his peers and has helped change the residential culture in college and improve the college community and student experience.


Adrian’s story is one of immense bravery and triumph in the face of unremitting adversity. Adrian served in the British Army and was part of the British force deployed for active duty in the Falklands War. As a result of his experiences, Adrian has suffered from PTSD, depression and anxiety for the rest of his adult life. He found adapting to working life challenging.

Adrian overcame many barriers to progress onto the 9 month Level 2 Diploma course, which he successfully completed and emerged stronger and more determined.

Many students looked up to Adrian as a role model. Using his life experience Adrian was able to offer positive advice and counsel and also acted as an ambassador for the behavioural curfew initiative.

He has now just begun a new chapter, starting an Applied Social Sciences degree at Doncaster College and University Centre.

Adrian is a humble, quiet man who does not seek the spotlight but his achievements and his story are deserving of celebration

Muhammad Bilal Saleem (runner-up)

Nelson & Colne College

Bilal, from Nelson & Colne College is is a remarkable individual who is highly regarded by his work colleagues, students and by members of the community.  

Blial achieved the highest possible grade in his BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma and now teaches Level 1 and 2 ICT students in Nelson and Colne College’s Foundation Learning department. His contribution to the college and the wider community in Pendle has been outstanding.  

In the classroom, he has facilitated and delivered additional Maths and English workshops in order to further help his students. In 2017/18, every single one of his students achieving at least a pass in both English and Maths GSCE. He has also engaged with hard to reach families improving the life chances of young people in one of the most deprived areas in the country.

Away from college, he was one of the founding members of the Friendship Café in Victoria Park in Nelson four years ago and has helped raise over £20,000 for Pendleside Hospice through ongoing charity challenges over a two year period.

Hannah Seager (runner-up)

Trafford College

Hannah, from Trafford College, is a TV and Film student who recently achieved a triple distinction in her Level 3 Extended Diploma. She has had endless enthusiasm for helping others which did not stop at the college gates.

Hannah has successfully combined full time studying with the demands of part time work, and now has her sights firmly set on a high flying career in the TV and Film industry after beating more than 9,000 applicants to land a job on the production team for Blue Peter, and a place on the coveted BBC Apprenticeship Scheme.

Despite the unwavering strength it must have taken to produce, as part of Hannah’s coursework she directed and featured in a documentary entitled ‘My Mum: Character over Cancer’ which followed her own mum’s treatment for the disease. Hannah and her mum were passionate about showing others that it is possible to live a life and still be OK, despite the fact that you get poorly with treatment.

Hannah has been an exemplary student over the two years she has been studying, with great attendance, working extra independently and engaging in class to achieve an exceptional high level of performance. In addition to her studies, she has applied herself to a range of work experience activities.


Apprentice of the year 

Sponsored by


Ellie Ferguson (Winner)

Hugh Baird College

Ellie, from Hugh Baird College is someone who goes above and beyond, whose kindness and compassion, combined with her innovative contributions to dementia care have undoubtedly contributed to improving the lives of many vulnerable adults.  

Ellie has faced many challenges whilst employed within the Dementia focused unit and has used these experiences to support her personal growth. Her focus and determination to make a difference to the lives of others is truly amazing.

Ellie is employed by a large Hospital trust and was placed on to a Dementia led ward as an apprentice at 17 with no previous clinical experience. Ellie completed level 1 British Sign Language as part of her apprenticeship training and was quick to introduce this to her patients, to encourage social interaction and enable active communication. This resulted in an outstanding improvement in communication between the patients on her ward and enabled them to voice their individual care needs. Ellie was also able to introduce on-ward activities which further enhanced patient well-being. This model has been adopted across the Hospital Trust. She supports her peers and supervisors in promoting the use of sign language to improve and enhance communication.

Ellie is also actively involved in supporting care in the community, working alongside external charities.

Ella Fielding (runner-up)

Exeter College

Ella, from Exeter College is incredibly hardworking with an overwhelming desire to help others succeed. Her willingness to share her experiences is without boundaries with employers, young people and parents alike.

Ella’s personal achievements are outstanding. After working at Exeter College for just three months, Ella led on managing her first Apprenticeship Expo. Three years on she has developed the Expo into the largest apprenticeship and employer engagement event in the South West during National Apprenticeship Week. In addition to the Apprenticeship Expo, Ella has since managed many more events celebrating apprentice achievements including Oxjam Music Festival (Oxfam GB) and TEDxExeter.

Ella has been appointed as the Chair of the Devon, Cornwall and Somerset Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network leading a community of young people, each working as positive advocates to inspire and inform the future generation on progression options and future careers. She has encouraged and inspired hundreds of young people to consider Apprenticeships and influenced many businesses to employ Apprentices.

Her willingness to share her experiences with employers, young people and parents is the epitome of what apprenticeships are all about.


If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Costello in the awards team, awards@aoc.co.uk 




Young Student of the Year Award - Sponsors: Eversheds Sutherland is recognised as a leading legal advisor to the education sector being ranked in Band 1 in both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners Legal Directories. We have a dedicated team of lawyers with a thorough understanding of the issues and needs faced by further education colleges and we can support you with pragmatic advice in all areas including employment, real estate, student issues, litigation, commercial matters, charity law and constitutional/regulatory considerations. Website for Legal Services.

Apprentice of the Year Award - Sponsors: Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the only chartered professional body in the UK dedicated to promoting the highest standards of management and leadership excellence. With a member community of over 100,000, CMI gives managers and leaders, and their organisations, the skills they need to improve their performance and create an impact.