The long journey with the best short walk you will ever make

We are a small University Centre in a medium sized Further Education college. We fight for our piece of the academic pie by providing outstanding teaching and learning opportunities in Higher Education for our (generally) local students.  

I regularly get asked “Are they proper degrees though, I mean like real ones?” (add a Yorkshire accent for authenticity!). This results in a passionate response about how they absolutely are and how you would not meet a more knowledgeable and supportive team. But those are just words from a proud teacher; it is the images that really paint the picture.  

In 2023 we had approximately 100 students graduating from our University Centre. You might think, oh that isn’t many, but our team knows every one of these students. From the tears, the frustration, the families to the smiles, laughter and achievement, we have experienced all these emotions and struggles with them all. These years accumulate in our graduation, and I say ‘our’ because that is what it is; it is a shared experience of pride, inspiration, a rollercoaster of emotions bubbling over into one amazing day of celebration. 

Our small but inspirational cohort of graduates means we get to hold our graduation ceremony in the beautiful Halifax Minister. 

This year the sun shone whilst graduates made their way to the Town Hall to pick up their caps and gowns dressed in their finest with children, parents, partners all beaming with pride. Lecturers greet each one of them with delight and occasionally tears of joy. The excitement tinged with nervousness whilst graduates had their gowns put on and caps clipped to avoid the inevitable slide. 

This is followed by a short walk to the Minister through the centre of town, with occasional bouts of applause from passersby and shouts of “woo hoo, well done you lot” in great Northern spirit accompanying them on their travels. 

The gardens of the Minister, full to the brim with proud partners, children, parents, friends and tutors, is a sight to bring a tear to the most stalwart of us. But the main event, the short walk down the aisle of the historical gothic minister, is without a doubt the most important part of the day. 

Principal, dignitaries, and lecturers, head to toe in their gowns of many colours wait for the nod. This gesture sets off the walk through the aisles towards the podium of achievement, and the staff take their seats beaming with anticipation.  

The ceremony culminates with graduates looking up to see their lecturer, the person who supported them to achieve their dreams taking the podium knowing their name will be called. All nervousness gone, worries of a sliding cap disappearing with every step towards that handshake or hug and that ripple of applause echoing through the minister. That is the moment we all share the achievement, we all feel that emotion and that is what graduation is like from our small but amazing University Centre. 


Abigail Gilbert, HE Quality Manager, University Centre Calderdale College