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Students celebrate at Access graduation

Reading College Access to Higher Education Diploma students and staff gathered on Friday evening to celebrate the students’ hard work at their annual graduation ceremony.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares people aged 19 or over, without traditional qualifications, for study at university.

During the presentation of the awards, Preeti Mahajan, the Faculty Manager reflected on the year saying: “I have always considered Access to be a remarkable programme that allows flexibility and the opportunity to reset your own individual goals.

“While the roads that you have all taken vary considerably, you are all sitting here tonight having succeeded. I speak on behalf of all the staff that we are immensely proud of your achievement and wish you all the best in the future.”

All the students were presented with certificates of achievement by their lecturers. The student awards followed, one student per subject, plus special awards for students who had gone above and beyond during the year.


The Baylis, Smith and Owens Prize was won by Sarah Colbourn. This is an external prize from Oxford University Press established to reward outstanding politics and international relations students. The prize - £150 worth of Oxford University Press vouchers - is awarded to the student judged to have written the best essay on international politics.

Dr. Richard Duckett who nominated Sarah for the award said: “Sarah wrote about the Environment and the Paris Accords, comparing them to the Copenhagen failure, not just taking on a different topic which hadn’t been covered by our students before, but investigating it very well too.”

The Biggest Contribution to College Life prize was won by Michel Mayne who helped at open evenings, taster events, the new student welcome day and attended lunch club. She got involved and always went the extra mile.

Most Academic Progress was awarded to Sharon Palfrey for outstanding hard work. Sharon put in a lot of extra study to improve her academic skills and she made great progress over the year.

Against the odds was awarded to Rebecca Cooke who had started an Access programme in 2010 but had to stop her studies for personal reasons. Rebecca has now managed to not only return to college and complete the Access to Mental Health pathway, but has done so very successfully and will be starting university in September.

The prize for Most Academic Commitment went to Mathew Axon, who despite a serious respiratory operation, which meant that he missed a lot of the course, has worked incredibly hard and has not only completed on time, but has done so with strong results.

Above and Beyond was presented to Bothwell Jones. Bothwell was a student rep and was an amazing ambassador for his group, supporting his classmates and truly going above and beyond.


Student of the Year was awarded to Michel Mayne, who studied Access to Nursing. The staff who nominated her were very impressed with her attendance and her academic achievement but also said: “A truly dedicated and hardworking student who has a passion for progression”, “Michel encourages and supports her fellow students” and “Michel has stepped out of her comfort zone, stepped forward and flourished!”

Michel said:The year has been fantastic. Although I was extremely nervous for the first few weeks, I quickly bonded with my peers and as the year progressed I received constant support from all the tutors, library staff and faculty staff.  This gave me the confidence and determination to achieve my full potential.”

“Being chosen as student of the year was completely unexpected and I was absolutely thrilled and slightly overwhelmed. I still can’t quite believe it - the perfect end to a brilliant year!”

Michel has an offer from the University of West London to study for a degree in Nursing.

The event finished with the staff awards, as voted for by the students.

This included Teacher of the Year, which was presented to Sarah Keen who teaches Biology. In nominating Sarah, students commented:

“Sarah gave me a great induction to my course, and has been very focused in making sure my studies are successful. She is very strict when it comes to time management and really kept me on my toes and enhanced my organisation and planning skills.”

Director, Paul Emberlin said: “This has been the most well-attended graduation yet, with more students on the course this year and what looks like the highest success rate too. The evening was a fantastic way to end the year and we are so proud of all the students who have achieved so much. I wish them all the best at university.”

Find out more about the Access to Higher Education Diploma and the subjects available, or come along to our advice days on 18 and 24 August.

For more photos from the event, see our Facebook page.