Over 70 students from Coleg Menai in Bangor have been celebrating after receiving their passports to university-level study and successfully completing their Access to Higher Education (HE) programmes at the college.

Karen Griffith, Access Programme Area Manager hosted the awards ceremony with special guest Professor Oliver Turnbull, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching & Learning at Bangor University presenting each student with their diploma.

The Access to Higher Education programme is a flexible programme, designed for adults who have few, if any, school qualifications. Access pathways available at the college include Bioscience, Art & Design, Humanities & Social Sciences, Social Sciences and Health Care.

Those gaining their diplomas included Thea Moule from Bangor, Maysie Bye from Tregarth, and Gemma McKnight from Llanfairfechan, all of whom followed the Access to Higher Education, Bioscience pathway.

Thea took a break from education following her A levels to go travelling. She said: “Whilst working in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, I had the opportunity to kayak with humpback whales, free dive with tiger sharks, and night swim with silky sharks. It was at this time that I also became acutely aware of the need to protect the ocean’s ecosystem, and decided that I wanted to put my passion for the ocean to good use, and complete a degree in marine biology.”

Thea gained distinctions throughout the course, and was one of a small number of students to be offered a scholarship to study at both Aberystwyth and Bangor universities. She has chosen to study at Bangor University, but already has plans to progress onto an MSc in Marine Biology upon completion of her degree.

She added, “The Access course gave me a fantastic foundation of knowledge, and also helped me to develop the skills I need to take on a university degree. I’m so glad I took the plunge, and am really looking forward to my future studies!”

Maysie had already studied A Levels and a Foundation Art & Design course with the college, before signing up to Access. She said, “I decided to combine my love for the environment with my passion for design and pursue a career in landscape architecture. The Access course has provided me with everything I need to start my degree in at the world-leading Russell group university in Sheffield – to say I’m excited is an understatement!”

Three years ago, Gemma McKnight found herself a single mother to a very sick child. However, the many hours she spent at his bedside ignited a desire to learn more about illness and its root causes, leading to a decision to return to learn as a mature student.

Gemma said, “I wanted to apply for a medical sciences degree, so signed up to Access first. It was no picnic, but I soon became used to juggling my responsibilities. Of course, there have been ups and downs throughout the year, with my son unfortunately having to spend a great deal of time in hospital, but I’ve completed it now with 30 distinctions and 15 merits! I’m on my way!”

Access Programme Area Manager at Coleg Menai, Karen Griffith said, “Access to Higher Education courses are not always about the grades achieved, but the journey undertaken by the individual. These intensive courses open doors for people who are looking for a change in direction, or who may not have the entry qualifications needed to study for a degree. We have an excellent team here at Coleg Menai, who feel extremely proud of helping these students reach their goal, year after year.”

To find out more about our courses in Access to HE, please visit: www.gllm.ac.uk/courses/access-to-higher-education.

Gemma McKnight from Llanfairfechan who is looking forward to starting her journey into medical science.

Main Photo: Coleg Menai Students Thea Moule from Bangor & Maysie Bye from Tregarth