Staff and students at the Grimsby Institute are celebrating after scooping the Leading Light Award at the national Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards.
The college was selected from the 12 AoC Beacon Award 2016/17 winning colleges across the country as the overall Leading Light winner by Baroness Sharp of Guildford, President of the AoC Charitable Trust.
Grimsby Institute won the Beacon Award for Widening Participation in Learning, sponsored by Gateway Qualifications, for its work in making higher education (HE) accessible and tailored to the employment needs of the local community.
Employers and community partners work with the college and endorse courses to ensure they match the needs of the local area.
Debra Gray, Principal of Grimsby Institute, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won the award. It’s all down to the hard work of our staff and students. It proves that deprivation doesn’t have to be a barrier.
“Some colleges use deprivation as a reason for failure, but it’s our reason to succeed. Those students need more support because they don’t have the start that others may have had.”
The judges praised the college particularly for the 24-hour opening of the HE building and its facilities. Students are offered the possibility of Skyping staff late in the evening, allowing them the flexibility to study when it is convenient for them. The judges said: “With the further education sector looking for different approaches to attract and retain hard-to-reach HE students, this project offers many strategies that will be of interest to many colleges in the sector.”
Explaining her choice to award Grimsby Institute as the Leading Light, Baroness Sharp said: “The area the Institute serves is one of the most disadvantaged in the UK and if we are looking to decrease inequalities and increase social mobility, increasing HE participation in such an area is one of the best ways of doing this.
“At a time when further education is being encouraged to diversify into HE and to concentrate on providing higher level qualifications in technical areas, to work with local employers in doing so and to meet the need for adult training and retraining, it does strike me as an exemplary scheme.”
The AoC Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK further education colleges. They reward colleges that go above and beyond in providing high-quality technical and professional education. Award winners must also offer something exceptional to students and the wider community.
The college received its certificate from Dame Pat Bacon, Chair of the AoC Beacon Awards, at an event in London.