Aspiration Awards 2024: Centre of the Year winner – Hull College | NCFE

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Aspiration Awards 2024: Centre of the Year winner – Hull College 

Hull College

The Centre of the Year category recognises providers that have gone above and beyond to help their learners and support staff progression. After undergoing an historic transformation over the last year and a half, our Aspiration Awards Centre of the Year, Hull College, has grown from instability and near bankruptcy to becoming one of the UK's top-performing further education institutions.  

Exceptional learner outcomes and meeting student needs 

Hull College has embarked on an inspiring journey towards success driven by a re-energised staff team, focusing on student success, improving culture and financial stability, and championing innovation.  

Its achievements don’t simply reflect the work of a single project or department, but instead a relentless dedication to improve and achieve across the entire institution, propelling them towards success and stability. 

As a result of their recent transformation, Hull College has seen a dramatic improvement in student achievement and an Ofsted visit in October 2023 awarded it their first 'Good' grade in many years, with 'Outstanding' recognition for adult provision and personal development and 'Strong' for skills.  

It has become a showcase for educational innovation, including artificial intelligence, Microsoft Translator, and cutting-edge curriculum design, positioning themselves at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution by training over 300 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) on AI-based productivity. 

Learners have also been making a meaningful impact beyond the college, with many actively engaged in their local community. Collectively, they’ve contributed over 8,000 hours of service and volunteering across the Hull and Humber regions, enriching their educational experience through involvement with a range of projects and activities. 

Hull College has been delivering NCFE qualifications throughout their transformation period, with Debra Gray MBE, Principal and Chief Executive, sharing: “We highly value the range and scope these qualifications offer. From large professional licenses to practice qualifications, to short upskilling and wrap-around additionality, the flexibility and adaptability of NCFE’s offerings allow us to provide comprehensive educational experiences tailored to each student’s unique needs and aspirations.” 

A revitalised culture 

The transformation at Hull College extends beyond academic achievements and student success, to a revitalised culture and re-energised staff team. It now has a thriving staff council, who engage with senior leaders regularly and work collaboratively to improve the experience of fellow staff members.  

In addition to its impressive CPD offering, it has introduced new initiatives such as free breakfast for all staff and reformed terms and conditions, positioning it as an employer of choice and resulting in a 10% reduction in staff turnover. 

It’s evident that Hull College is now dedicated to providing a ‘world-class’ staff experience, and colleagues are delighted with the impact, with one support staff member declaring "I’ve been with the college for 22 years, and this is the first time I’ve properly felt valued”, and another sharing that "Our culture is so much better, and staff are starting to realise that the leadership team genuinely cares and wants to make a difference." 

Achieving financial stability and rebuilding reputation 

Financial stability has also been a cornerstone of Hull College's transformation. In just 18 months, it managed to reduce a large operating deficit to a balanced budget, all without the need for restructuring. This incredible achievement led to it being formally moved out of government intervention in December 2023, and it serves as a model for other colleges to showcase what can be achieved with resilience and determination. 

Alongside this, it has worked diligently to positively rebuild its reputation. Deeply rooted in its long history of serving the City of Hull and the Humber region since 1861, the college has educated generations of mariners, health workers, engineers, chefs, builders and entrepreneurs. It serves as the ‘beating heart’ of the city and has been an anchor institution for inward investment, transforming lives and overcoming disadvantage. 

Through engaging with hundreds of local employers, SMEs, and microbusinesses, they've completely transformed its branding, community, and industry relationships. The physical environment in the college has been revitalised to create a welcoming, quirky, and comfortable space for staff and students.  

These reputation gains speak volumes and have been reflected in a large increase in student numbers for the 2023-24 academic year, and a multitude of positive press for the college. 

Recognition and future aspirations 

From near bankruptcy and instability to being one of the best performing colleges in the country, Hull College’s journey was made possible thanks to the unwavering approach to excellence shown by members of staff and a leadership team who care deeply about their learners, their city and their region.  

Its transformation over the past 24 months is a testament to the dedication of its staff and learners and the support of the wider community, making them incredibly deserving Centre of the Year winners. 

Congratulations Hull College! To read more inspirational stories from this year's award winners, visit our Aspiration Awards 2024 page

NCFE qualifications support the diverse needs of our learners. These courses enrich the curriculum, enhance employability, and develop essential life skills for learners of all ages and levels.

It has always been more than just a job to me, Hull College runs in my blood. The changes brought in have been done with pace, with passion, with logic, and effectiveness.