From education to employment

Triple celebrations at WCG graduation ceremonies

Over 230 students celebrated their academic achievements at three graduation ceremonies at St Mary’s Collegiate Church and Old Shire Hall, Warwick last week.

The graduates, who have spent the past few years studying a variety of higher education courses at six of the WCG group of colleges across Warwickshire and Worcestershire donned their gowns, hoods and mortarboards at the Grade 1-listed Old Shire Hall before moving with family and friends to the ceremony and presentation of awards at the 900 year-old church.

Following the ceremony the graduates led by WCG CEO Angela Joyce, governors and VIPs, processed through the centre of Warwick, stopping at Market Square for the traditional mortarboard throw. Thereafter a drinks reception at Old Shire Hall finished off the special occasion.

Guests of honour and keynote speakers at the ceremonies were Sir Peter Rigby DL, Chief Executive of the Rigby Group PLC, Timothy Cox, Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire and David Holmes, CEO British Eventing.

David Holmes, who gave the address at the Friday morning ceremony, said: “I was delighted to have been a part of the WCG Graduation Ceremonies; it was a great honour to be asked to make the keynote speech, especially given my role as a governor. I do hope that the insights I shared will be helpful to all graduates as they embark on the next phase of their lives. I wish them all the very best for the future.”

At Friday’s ceremony WCG’s President Chris White and CEO Angela Joyce presented a fellowship of WCG to Steve Wood who served as a governor of WCG for 11 years and latterly as chairman for the final three years of his tenure.

Mr Wood was recently been appointed as a trustee and chair of the Moreton Hall Trust Board which has been set up to oversee the college group’s vision to create a boutique hotel and training venue for the hospitality industry based at Moreton Morrell College.

Chris White said: “In awarding a fellowship we are not only recognising an exceptional individual, we also are gaining their agreement to continue to support the work of our colleges. I am delighted that Steve will join our select group of fellows and that in agreeing to be a WCG Fellow he will continue to play a key role in the future.”

Mr Wood, who was formerly Vice President and Managing Director of Massey Ferguson, said: “What a fantastic day to see graduates celebrate their hard-earned rewards! To see them graduate in the historic settings of St. Mary’s Church and Old Shire Hall was very special indeed. You could see that their families and college staff were very proud too.”

“It was also a very proud day for me to be awarded a WCG fellowship for my involvement in the college group over the years. I enjoy my involvement with WCG and will continue to support it as the organisation navigates its way through exciting and challenging times.”

“I also look forward to the day we bring the old Moreton Hall back to life as a much-needed hotel and training school to teach and develop the future professional chefs and hospitality workers for our region’s vibrant tourist industry.”

The graduates studied a range of degrees including art, animal science, business, computing, counselling, early years, engineering, equine, games art and more. Some graduates completed their degrees on a part-time basis, while working and juggling family commitments.  

Thomas Brennan, 22 from Whitnash achieved a BA (Hons) in Early Years Care and Education at Royal Leamington Spa College. He said: “I have really enjoyed my course. The amount of support offered by my tutors was brilliant and the small class numbers resulted in more support being accessible. The social side of college as been great too!”

Thomas has decided to work for a year or two as an early years practitioner before going on to complete his PGCE (postgraduate certificate in education). He graduated with a group of four friends who have all studied at Rugby and Leamington Colleges since leaving school at the age of 16. The five are all currently working at early years practitioners in and around Warwickshire. His advice for anyone thinking of doing his course is “you can do it!”.

Sarah Baxter, 27 from Nuneaton achieved a FdA in Business and Management. She said: “University is not always the right option everyone but I decided to come back to education later on in my life. Attending Leamington College has allowed me to study part-time for my degree and provided the flexibility to work at the same time. I’m now continuing at Leamington to top-up my degree and then I plan to start a postgraduate course.”

“The tutors have been incredibly supportive and are always on hand when you need some extra guidance. They go out of their way to ensure you fully understand the subject matter and provide support when it’s needed the most.”

Vijay Sandher, 51 from Coventry, celebrated along with his wife Harj achieving a FdSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Royal Leamington Spa College. Vijay, who currently works as a manager at Sainsbury’s in Coventry, said: “I am very proud and relieved that I’ve finally achieved my qualification as a counsellor/ psychotherapist.”

“I just can’t thank everyone involved in the college, especially my two tutors for the support and guidance they have shown. They have been brilliant! I’d like to say to anyone who thinks it’s too late to study, it isn’t and i’m an example of that!” Vijay now plans to go into private practice and specialise in bereavement, PTSD, drug & alcohol addiction counselling alongside his current job in retail.

Lorie Shanks, 23 from Kenilworth, graduated with a FdA in Performing Arts at Rugby College alongside her twin sister Mirie and younger sibling Nikita, age 21. She said: “Studying for a foundation degree with my sisters has been absolutely amazing as we’re all best friends but it has also had its challenges, particularly when working on the acting tasks together as we know each other inside out.”

Lorie is currently working as a film and TV extra and hopes to pursue a full-time professional career in acting. She added: “The course has been brilliant and really helped me with the skills I need to pursue my dream of pursuing an acting career.”

Her mum Vikie Shanks, who campaigns for a better understanding of mental health and learning disabilities, said: “It’s an incredibly special day and I am so proud of them all. Nikita is autistic and I was told that she’d never make it in mainstream education. Look at her now – she’s got a foundation degree in Performing Arts!”

Nick Stott from Brackley in Northamptonshire was celebrating an getting an HNC in Manufacturing Engineering with distinction at Rugby College. The 21-year-old currently works as an engineering technician for 3P Innovation, an engineering company based in Warwick.

Incredibly, whilst working full-time and studying part-time Nick also manages to put in six hours of training each day to make it as an elite sportsman. He is the current British kickboxing champion and also ranked number in the world for Thai boxing!

He said: “I am working towards becoming a full-time project engineer, moving on from my current position as an engineering and development technician. In the not-too-distant future I would like to begin my path towards project management and have aspirations of joining senior management before eventually starting my own firm.”

“I’ve really enjoyed my studied at Rugby and  found the course content to have practical applications to real world problems. There is a general feeling of having freedom to learn in the way that best suits you. Tutors and other staff members are willing to accommodate students using facilities at almost all the hours that the college is open to give them the opportunity to carry out the extra work.”

Emily Smith, 22 from Derby celebrated achieving a first class BSc (Hons) in Equine Science with her parents Shirley and Graeme. The tutor prize-winning student lived at Moreton Morrell’s halls of residence for a year and then in Leamington for the remainder of her course.

She said: “I’m very chuffed as today’s graduation means that my three years of hard work has pulled off! I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies at Moreton Morrell. All my lecturers have been excellent and are experts in their own field. Their interests have shined through in their lectures.”

“My plan for the next year is to gain work experience in as many areas as possible but I am particularly interested pharmacology and drug development/research in both the equine and veterinary side of things.”

Christopher Whatcott from Southam celebrated achieving a BA (Hons) Business Strategy and Management at Royal Leamington Spa College. The 30-year-old, who works as a senior data analyst at First Utility in Coventry, said: “I am really enjoying the today. It’s been challenging studying around work and trying to fit everything in but it’s definitely worth it in the end. Going back to college has definitely helped me in my career. I can attribute the fact that I am in a more senior role directly to my studies.”

Angela Joyce, CEO of WCG said: “We have been steadily increasing our higher education provision over a number of years and, after awarding our first foundation degrees only two years ago, I’m delighted to see that nearly eighty percent of our graduates this year have achieved Warwickshire College degrees.”

“These foundation degree-awarding powers give us the chance to support local employment needs by making sure our higher education provision is accessible, relevant and meets the needs of businesses. Graduation is truly a day of celebration for everyone at WCG and we’re incredibly proud to see all of our graduates achieve their goals.”

WCG offers higher education courses in a wide range of subjects through full time, part-time and distance learning. 

WCG is one of the largest general further and higher education college groups in the UK, providing high quality education and training for individuals and organisations at a local, regional, national and international level.


The group has seven colleges – Royal Leamington Spa, Rugby, Moreton Morrell, Pershore, Evesham, Malvern Hills and Warwick Trident, with over 17,000 students and more than 1000 courses.


WCG works in partnership with a large number of local and national employers across industry and is the largest college provider of apprenticeship training in the region, with over 2,000 apprentices trained every year.

Harj and Vijay Sandher from Coventry_RSL.jpg
Lewis Cutts, Jodie Stanton & Christopher Whattcott all from Southam_RSL.jpg

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Sarah Baxter age 27 from Nuneaton, FdA Business and Management_RSL.jpg

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WCG CEO Angela Joyce & Nick Stott.jpg


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