In celebration of the smaller Higher Education provider 

What is the highlight of working at the University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire Education Centre? It could be the excitement of beginning a new academic year, enrolling new faces, welcoming back familiar ones. It could be the bubbling excitement during induction, combined with the palpable flutter of nerves and in some cases trepidation. Or it could be the hopes and fears; the dreams of what may come; or the exam boards and the nail-biting as students anxiously await their results. 

It is extremely hard to pinpoint one particular part of the year within the University Centre. Being a small establishment brings with it the joy of getting to know students well. This is one of the privileges, within a whole host of challenges, to work within Higher Education (HE) delivered in Further Education (FE).   

Students who choose to attend a university centre, as opposed to a traditional university, are often faced with personal challenges which may prevent them from venturing far from home. This may be financial, having personal or family responsibilities, or lacking in confidence at this point in time and not daring to leave a familiar setting.  

Some students in certain areas have none or little history of HE in the family and may not have considered HE as an option. Many such students are nurtured through their college studies by lecturers and support staff who, upon recognising their potential, guide and support students to fulfil their ambitions. We recognise that not all young people come from the same background and starting points in life. That does not mean they are any less capable, merely that they may take a little longer and benefit from a little extra support along the way to achieve their goal.  

Student support in smaller institutions, largely due to the very nature of the size and number of students, can tailor assistance significantly to the needs of the individual. Although the breadth of services is not as extensive as those provided by the traditional institutions, students studying HE-in-FE can also access college wide services.  

HE-in-FE is also an amazing provision that can transform lives and communities. Wakefield district itself is disadvantaged; it has one of the lowest number of entrants into HE in the United Kingdom and is one of the few cities that does not have a university. This makes the service and opportunities provided by the University Centre doubly important; it should not be overlooked or dismissed but valued and celebrated.  

What HE in FE provides to local communities is vital to the levelling up agenda through social mobility, upskilling the workforce, raising aspirations, improving life chances, and providing opportunities that help students to positively contribute financially to the local economy.  

However, I digress. Back to the highlight! This must be the graduation ceremony, the pinnacle of three (or four) years of intense study and hard work. Here we can celebrate with friends and family, and really take the time to appreciate just what has been achieved. And furthermore, this may be HE-in-FE, but the pomp and ceremony and sense of occasion is a match for even Russell Group universities. 

A procession of graduates in celebratory caps and gowns, staff and dignitaries set off from The Seacole building (the dedicated University Centre) and proceed through the city to the magnificent Wakefield Cathedral. There await friends and family, tentatively anticipating the first glimpse of their loved ones in full ceremonial regalia, as they proudly take their seats for the ceremony.   

This joyous occasion is then duly celebrated by raising a glass of fizz. The students are on a high, parents and friends are elated, and lecturers are proudly basking in their students’ sense of achievement and the promise of things to come. 


Jayne Kaye, Senior Outreach Officer (GHWY Uni Connect), University Centre Wakefield – Heart of Yorkshire Education Centre