Lancaster University

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Winners of prestigious Foundation Degrees in Lancashire awards announced

11/11/2005 16:34:03

Lancaster University hosted the inaugural Foundation Degrees in Lancashire awards at its award-winning Infolab building on Tuesday 8 November. Students and employers from across Lancashire were nominated for these prestigious awards by the 15 colleges and universities in Lancashire that offer Foundation Degrees.

Winners were announced in three categories: Young Student of the Year (under 25 years), Mature Student of the Year (25 and over) and Employer of the Year.

The winner in the category Young Student of the Year was Emma Parsons, who was nominated by Edge Hill and who had taken a Foundation Degree in Teaching and Learning Support – Primary. Emma was employed as a Teaching Assistant when she embarked on the Foundation Degree, and received support for her studies from the school. She was the highest achieving young student on the Primary Foundation Degree at Edge Hill, and received a commendation when graduating in July this year.

Emma was nominated by programme leader Maureen Judge because she overcame a number of difficulties during her studies, including taking care of her cousin’s children while she recovered from a serious accident. Emma felt that the Foundation Degree gave her the confidence to progress further in her career, and has successfully passed the bridging course to Level 3 of a BA (Hons) in Child Development and Learning with QTS.

Maureen says, “Emma has shown a high level of commitment and balanced her work, family and studies exceptionally well even in the face of adversity. It has been a great privilege and pleasure to watch Emma grow in confidence, experience and knowledge over the past three years, becoming an excellent role model to other students.”

The winner in the category Mature Student of the Year was Jane Mwita, who was nominated by Lancaster University and took a Foundation Degree in Working with Young People and Young People’s Services. Jane moved to the UK in 2002, when her husband began a PhD at Lancaster University Management School. They moved here from their home in Kenya, with their three children aged 14, 12 and 7, leaving behind extended family and lifelong friends.

As well as her Foundation Degree studies and family responsibilities, Jane has taken a Psychology Certificate with the Department of Continuing Education at the University, and has been involved in the local community through her work as a Teaching Assistant and after-school helper in two local schools. Jane has occasionally had to keep the household running when her husband returned to Kenya for three-month trips as part of his PhD.

Jane is in the second year of her part-time Foundation Degree, and intends to use her skills to work in the longer term as an educational welfare officer, careers advisor or student support worker. Jane was nominated by Andrew Bernard, Business Development Manager in the Centre for Training and Development at Lancaster University, who said: By any measure, these challenges and difficulties are individually significant. That Jane has done these things together, in the same year, we feel deserves special recognition ... It is impossible to overestimate the skills Jane has applied in balancing her work, higher education learning, family and social responsibilities in the past year.”

The winner in the category Employer of the Year was Warton-based company Arvin Meritor, which was nominated by Blackpool and The Fylde College. The Foundation Degree the company is involved with is Autosport. Arvin Meritor is a vehicle exhaust system development business. They have been associated with the College for 6 years, and supply learning resources, work placements and technical development information. The employer supports the Autosport Foundation Degree students by allowing time off for study, and enabling them to use the facility for research.

Arvin Meritor has also been involved in the development of the Foundation Degree in Autosport, by advising the College on module content, based on the skills they seek in an employee. They have advised the College on how to develop its own extensive engine test development centre, as well as providing industry contacts. The employer also provides work placements for Foundation Degree students.

Arvin Meritor was nominated by Adrian Bamber, Curriculum Manager in the School of Engineering and Computing, who said, “A student who is currently studying a Foundation Degree here went to them to do his work placement. They were impressed by him, and saw the benefits of having an employee with both good academic knowledge and practical experience, so they employed him permanently, giving him time off for his studies.”

The award was collected by Robert Lindsay, Test Team Leader at Arvin Meritor.

Lucy Lloyd, Assistant Director in the Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University, commented, “We received some truly inspiring nominations – people who have managed to fulfil their potential while balancing work, study and personal commitments, often while also dealing with other situations and circumstances that would have caused most people to give up on their studies. I am very impressed by the commitment they have shown, and by the support they have received from their employers and the colleges and universities. The winner in the Employer of the Year category, Arvin Meritor, is particularly note-worthy as, not only do they support Foundation Degree students, but also they have worked with the college in developing the Foundation Degree.”

The guest speakers at the awards ceremony were Professor Derek Longhurst, Director of Foundation Degree Forward, and Mike Heaton, Youth Strategy Manager, Learning and Skills Council Lancashire. Universities and colleges across the region were represented at the event, as well as a number of organisations that are involved in the delivery of education and training.

The event also saw the launch of the Foundation Degrees in Lancashire website

The awards event is part of Foundation Degrees in Lancashire week, during which all the Foundation Degree providers in Lancashire are collaborating to raise the profile of these relatively new courses. Foundation Degrees were introduced in the UK in 2000 and are rapidly growing in popularity. This higher education level qualification is developed by employers in partnership with universities and colleges. The courses combine academic study with work-based learning and experience. They offer a cost-effective and flexible means for employees to gain a higher level qualification while remaining in employment.

There are now 128 Foundation Degrees available in Lancashire in subjects as diverse as sport coaching and casino operations, health care and criminology. The awards evening was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Foundation Degree students and to acknowledge the support and input into the programmes that employers in the region have made.

The awards ceremony is part of a unique Aimhigher Lancashire funded project led by the Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University. The project has successfully brought about the collaboration of all the institutions that provide Foundation Degrees in Lancashire, and aims to raise awareness of the qualification among employers and potential students.

For a Foundation Degrees in Lancashire brochure please contact Rosemary Hindley on 01524 593686.