STUDENTS at a County Durham college have gained a first in passing their degrees.
The first cohort, from a new foundation degree programme validated by New College Durham, is celebrating after successfully making the grade.
The 19 students, including Claire McDonald, are also the first in the country to graduate from a college-validated course after gaining their foundation degrees in leadership in voluntary and community organisations.
New College Durham was one of the first colleges to be granted Foundation Degree Awarding Powers in 2011 by the Privy Council and these are the first students to complete it.
John Widdowson, principal and chief executive of New College Durham, said: “This is a historic moment as we congratulate the first of our students to graduate with a Foundation Degree awarded by the college.
“It is particularly pleasing that they have studied to prepare themselves to work in the community and voluntary sector, which is increasingly important to the health and well-being of our communities.”
The programme was developed in partnership with SkillShare North East Ltd, a community training organisation for the voluntary sector, based in Hartlepool.
Manager Karen Milburn was not only instrumental in creating this new programme she was also one of the students.
She said: “Before this programme was developed, there was nothing in the whole of the North East for voluntary sector workers to progress to from a Level 3 qualification. This new programme is a first for the region and it provides those working in the voluntary sector with a progression route, recognition of the work they are doing, and a mechanism to develop higher level skills in a co-ordinated way.
“New College Durham has created a massive opportunity for voluntary sector employees, providing them with the opportunity to access higher education for the first time ever.”
The majority of the students, seven of which gained distinctions, already work within community organisations and registered charities.