One year on from its founding, the latest addition to the Lothians’ educational stable is going from strength to strength, says Mandy Exley
Today marks the first birthday of Edinburgh College – a celebration of a year of achievement that has already seen it forge a strong identity in Scottish further education.
Since launching last October, the college has continued developing to deliver its central aims – to offer the best possible educational experience to students, to meet the needs of industry and to contribute to a financially vibrant nation.
As we begin our second year, the college is sending its first graduates out into the workplace, all highly employable and ready to contribute to the economy. More than 90 per cent of Edinburgh College students who complete their course go on to positive destinations – entering the employment market or continuing with education or training. The college is the largest single provider of undergraduates to the University of Edinburgh.
Over the last year, 60 students have won local, national and international competition prizes, while at the college’s own Further Education Awards, 169 students won prizes for excellence and achievement.
Forty-five members of staff continued their development to achieve learning and teaching qualifications this year and three have begun PhD programmes, including research into the college’s pioneering electric vehicle (EV) research project. The EV project is the largest of its kind in Scotland and research into the electric car fleet has shown that the vehicles are effective in both cutting carbon emissions and reducing long-term motoring costs. The research project has been extended for another two years.
Other initiatives are building on the college’s reputation for innovation and commitment to sustainability – including Scotland’s first solar meadow at our Midlothian Campus. The £1.2 million meadow – with 2,560 solar panels installed over five acres – generates the equivalent of the campus’s renewable energy needs and reduces its carbon emissions by 300,000kg per year.
Another major project this year was the opening of the Creative Exchange in Leith, a new hub for creative industry entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. A partnership with City of Edinburgh Council, it provides support and facilities for small start-up companies – including advice and mentoring, super-fast broadband and space for meetings, networking and exhibitions.
Since the start of the new academic year, students have also been enjoying the results of a £5m redevelopment of the Sighthill Campus, which has provided a modern space for socialising and study. Edinburgh College has achieved so much in its first 12 months, but it is very much looking to the future. One key area is exploring new collaborations to ensure the college is meeting the needs of industry and the wider economy, and to give our students the best chance of finding work experience and employment.
Growing Scotland’s economy
College activities are already aligned closely with recommendations being made to government about growing Scotland’s economy. Sir Ian Wood’s recent report for the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce said that equal importance should be given to vocational qualifications, skills training and apprenticeships as to academic studies. Edinburgh College already works with universities and employers on pioneering skills academies in key areas for the Scottish economy. The East Lothian Hospitality & Tourism Academy launched last year and further skills academies for 2013-14 cover areas like engineering, healthcare and creative industries. These programmes are aimed at senior school pupils from Edinburgh and the Lothians, engaging them in skills training and work experience with employers – and there are currently more than 200 young people engaged in these programmes.
Collaboration will continue to be crucial as we seek out dynamic new partners locally, nationally and internationally. Projects such as the skills academies and the associate degrees offered in collaboration with partner universities show how we can find new ways to give students more options to shape their own success.
We also want to continue the upward annual trend in student recruitment, which has seen an increase in the number of 16 to 19-year-olds enrolling since the new organisation launched.
Students and staff have worked exceptionally hard in our first year. Last week, our first cohort of students graduated under the Edinburgh College name – and I offer all of them my warmest congratulations.
Each of these graduates now has the opportunity to go onto great things, whether in higher education or the workplace. We should be very proud of their achievements and use them as inspiration for the next year – and beyond.
• Mandy Exley is Principal and Chief Executive of Edinburgh College www.edinburghcollege.ac.uk