A double celebration was held as South Devon College awarded its own degrees for the very first time.
With campuses in Paignton, Newton Abbot and Torquay, the college celebrated the achievements of its University Centre South Devon students at a joint ceremony held over two days at Torquay’s Grand Hotel.
The two-day event was held last Thursday and Friday to ensure both the classes of 2020, and 2021 were formally congratulated.
Last year’s graduation ceremony was held virtually due to coronavirus.
This is the first year that students from University Centre South Devon have been able to graduate with a degree awarded by South Devon College using its new Foundation Degree Awarding Powers (FDAP) alongside degrees awarded in partnership with University of Plymouth.
Laurence Frewin, principal at South Devon College, said: “I was so excited to welcome both the graduating class of 2020 and 2021 here today.
"I don’t think that any of us could have imagined the challenges of the last 18 months and I was so glad to be able to celebrate the success of both cohorts in person for the real 3D surround sound experience!
“South Devon College was only awarded Foundation Degree Awarding Powers in 2019 and this year we proudly saw our first cohort of South Devon College foundation degree graduates.
“These graduates are the first of many to take advantage of a natural progression within the college and University Centre, all while maintaining strong links with our partners.
"We are ambitious as a college of further and higher education and ambitious for our local area.
“By working with others, particularly the University of Plymouth, the vision aims to build even stronger higher education opportunities accessible across the South Devon region, contributing to it economically and socially.”
Around 50 students who studied degree level courses in subjects that included assistant practitioner, illustration with graphics and animation, contemporary arts practice, and fashion with textiles graduated with a South Devon College foundation degree.
Mr Frewin added: “The ceremonies, being held over two days were about recognising and celebrating the fantastic achievement of over 800 completing higher education students over two year groups, many of whom joined us in person for the first time.”
Graduating student Luke Purchon, 33, from Plymouth is a proud recipient of the assistant practitioner foundation degree awarded by South Devon College.
Luke is an assistant practitioner at Derriford Hospital specialising in renal care.
He left school with few qualifications and was working in Sainsbury’s café before he decided to make a change, he become a healthcare worker eight years ago.
Over those years, Derriford has supported Luke’s professional training.
Luke said: “When I started this course, I wasn’t prepared. I really didn’t think I could get through it… I didn’t even have a laptop and we were expecting our first child, Freddie.
"But the staff at South Devon College said that they would support me, and here I am.”
Luke, who became a father in 2019, passed his course with distinction and completed his foundation degree while working at the hospital and juggling family life.
He said: “Studying at home was nearly impossible, it was difficult to concentrate, and every time I opened my laptop Freddie wanted to see what was going on and enjoyed playing with the keyboard.”
Luke’s aim is to become a registered nurse, but he’s going to take a short break from studying.
He said: “It’s been such a weird time for all of us. Looking after Covid patients at work, worrying about keeping my family safe when I go home, and studying has been full on.
"I’d like to take some time to be a father, to enjoy family life a little more.”
Luke gave the traditional 'vote of thanks’ at the ceremony, telling fellow students and lecturers: “You’re all heroes. Thank you.”
Around 850 graduates from across both years were invited to attend the two-day event and five separate five ceremonies were held.
Mr Frewin said: We are proud that our college and dedicated University Centre and, of course, our incredible staff have enabled these students to grow and have supported their ambitions so far.
"We are all delighted to celebrate their achievements and we wish our graduates a great future success and enjoyment.”
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