University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College students of 2020 and 2021 praised at graduation ceremonies in Bury St Edmunds
More than 200 students were praised for their 'resilience and ambition' as they graduated during two ceremonies in Bury St Edmunds.
The University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College ceremonies for those who graduated in 2020 and 2021 were held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral this afternoon.
Eleven prizes were awarded to inspirational students who were nominated by tutors for their outstanding achievements during their studies.
Dr Nikos Savvas, chief executive of the Eastern Colleges Group which includes West Suffolk College, Abbeygate Sixth Form and One Sixth Form, said: "I am incredibly impressed by our students' achievements.
"They have shown optimism, resilience and ambition – which not only paves the way for their future success, but will inspire future undergraduates as they continue their learning journey.
"Furthermore, to have over 200 people entering the workforce with the skills and attributes needed to succeed and excel in their chosen careers is fantastic news for the region.
"These people are not only enhancing their opportunities by embracing education, but they will also support local businesses and organisations.”
Two ceremonies were held as the 2020 celebrations could not take place due to the pandemic.
A total of 210 students graduated in a range of subjects and courses – 100 with first class honours and 29 with distinctions in their foundation degrees.
During the ceremonies, The Very Reverend Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury, gave a welcoming address followed by speeches from Dr Savvas, Tim Greenacre, chief operating officer at University of Suffolk and Dr Christopher Meredith, Executive Dean of University Studies at West Suffolk College.
Dr Meredith said: “We know that our graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 have overcome extraordinary circumstances to be here today.
"More than ever, after an extremely difficult 18 months, this is now the time for all of us to celebrate and honour their accomplishments.”
During the first ceremony, Rae Snape gave a speech to the class of 2020, acting in her role as an Honorary Fellow.
In the second ceremony, Professor Andy Neely, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise and Business Relations at Cambridge University, congratulated the class of 2021 on their collective successes.
Ms Snape, a headteacher and national leader of education, said: “I am truly honoured to have been awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Suffolk.
"The university’s impressive mission for individual, societal and global transformation through high quality education, chimes deeply with my own and the University’s aim to change lives for the better is inspiring.
"I am very grateful to the Vice-Chancellor for this nomination. I am very proud to be the recipient of this wonderful award and to have a connection with such a fantastic centre of learning. Thank you.”
Francesca Benson, 30, of Bury St Edmunds, gained a merit on her BA (Hons) applied interior design course.
Francesca posed for a photo with her son Tyler and her twin boys Hunter and Blake.
She said: “It was a good course and I’m now going to do a PGCE. I used to be a chef but I think teaching will be better hours for me in terms of having three children.”
On taking a degree, she said: “I did a degree later in life and age shouldn’t define you or be a barrier. I went to university thinking I’d be the oldest one in the class but I wasn’t – everyone should do it (a degree).”
Dominic Wightley, 24, of Oulton Broad near Lowestoft, received the overall student of the year award.
On winning his award, he said: "I was ecstatic when I found out. The hard work has paid off."
Dominic gained a first class honours on a part time electrical engineering degree pathway.
On passing his degree with top honours, he said: “I was thrilled with the news. It was what I was aiming for and I am pleased with what I achieved.”
On his course, the Birdseye employee said: “I enjoyed my time with the course. People were supportive. I felt very comfortable at the college and would 100% recommend it to others.”
After the ceremony, guests and graduates enjoyed drinks and canapés prepared by the award-winning Edmunds restaurant and West Suffolk College catering and hospitality students in the historic grounds of the cathedral.