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Hull College named ‘Centre of the Year’ at National Education Awards


Hull College(@hullcollegegrp) has won a prestigious national award after a historic transformation that has taken it from near bankruptcy to being one of the best performing in the country.

Moving from instability to becoming one of the UK’s top further education institutions, the college has embarked on an inspiring journey towards success driven by a re-energised staff team, focusing on student success, improving culture and financial stability, and championing innovation.

Hull College’s journey has now led it to be named ‘Centre of the Year’ as part of the Aspiration Awards. Created by the leader in vocational and technical learning NCFE, the awards, now in their seventh year, honour learners, educators and organisations across the UK.

Debra Gray MBE, Principal and CEO of Hull College, said:

“We are thrilled to be recognised as Centre of the Year by the NCFE Aspiration Awards. Our incredible team of Hullraisers has shown remarkable commitment and dedication to our students, employers, communities, and city. I am immensely proud of their achievements and the positive impact they’ve made.”

As a result of the recent transformation, Hull College has seen a dramatic improvement in student achievement and an Ofsted visit in October 2023 awarded it their first ‘Good’ grade in many years, with ‘Outstanding’ recognition for adult provision and personal development and ‘Strong’ for skills.

It has become a showcase for educational innovation, including artificial intelligence, Microsoft Translate, and cutting-edge curriculum design, positioning themselves at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution by training over 300 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) on AI-based productivity.

Learners have also been making a meaningful impact beyond the college, with many actively engaged in their local community. Collectively, they’ve contributed over 8,000 hours of service and volunteering across the Hull and Humber regions, enriching their educational experience through involvement with a range of projects and activities.

However, the transformation at Hull College extends beyond academic achievements and student success, to a revitalised culture and staff team. It now has a thriving staff council, who engage with senior leaders regularly and work collaboratively to improve the experience of fellow staff members.

In addition to its impressive CPD offering, it has introduced new initiatives such as free breakfast for all staff and reformed terms and conditions, positioning it as an employer of choice and resulting in a 10% reduction in staff turnover.

Financial stability has also been a cornerstone of Hull College’s transformation. In just a year and a half, it managed to reduce a large operating deficit to a balanced budget, all without the need for restructuring. This incredible achievement led to it being formally moved out of government intervention in December 2023.

Alongside this, it has worked diligently to positively rebuild its reputation. Deeply rooted in its long history of serving the City of Hull and the Humber region since 1861, the college has educated generations of mariners, health workers, engineers, chefs, builders and entrepreneurs. It serves as the ‘beating heart’ of the city and has been an anchor institution for inward investment, transforming lives and overcoming disadvantage.

Julie Hyde, Director of External and Regulatory Affairs at NCFE, said:

“Hull College has earned this Aspiration Award due to its extraordinary transformation. This turnaround was achieved through a focus on student outcomes, innovative practices, financial stability, community support and strong relationships with local businesses.

“The college’s efforts have led to outstanding learner achievements, with significant improvements in student success rates and commendations from Ofsted. Its innovative use of technology and commitment to excellence have solidified its reputation as a beacon of success in further education. This comprehensive transformation, driven by passionate leadership and an unwavering commitment to excellence, makes Hull College a deserving recipient of the NCFE ‘Centre of the Year’ award.

“It has been a privilege to judge the ‘Centre of the Year’ category, recognising and celebrating exceptional achievements and innovative practices within educational institutions. The finalists were all excellent and more than worthy of their place. Highlighting the holistic transformations of centres like Hull College underscores the importance of comprehensive development, including academic success, staff development, financial stability, and community impact. Ultimately, this category promotes a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, vital for the advancement of the education sector.”

Read the full 2024 Aspiration Awards here

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