The Helena Kennedy Foundation bursary went to Zoe Shanks, aged 35, who has completed an access to social science course at Cumbernauld College and is now at Stirling University studying criminology and sociology.
The foundation was set up in 1998 by Baroness Kennedy to honour "second chance" students who have moved on from further to higher education and overcome barriers along the way. Ms Shanks, a single parent who became Scotland's first female train driver, will use the pound;1,000 to support herself and her two young boys while at university.
The awards included two other bursary winners, courtesy of Edinburgh University and Learndirect Scotland.
The former went to Cara Biseker from Lauder College who is going to Edinburgh to study for a degree in primary education. She will use the cash to ease the financial pressures for her and her three-year-old son who has cerebral palsy, visual impairment and severe epilepsy.
The Learndirect Scotland bursary winner was Claire Gilliland, who took her Highers at Stevenson College Edinburgh and has been offered a conditional place at Stirling University to study philosophy - despite being a carer for her mother and working to support the family.
College-wide awards were also up for grabs at the ceremony, which is run by the Scottish Further Education Unit. The winners were:
* Learndirect award for student learning - Glasgow Metropolitan College, for an integrated literacies project which supports students on a range of courses.
* Microsoft award for professional learning and enhancement - Forth Valley College, for an approach to "putting IT into the classroom" that has "inspired and engaged" teaching staff.
* City and Guilds award for partnership working - Oatridge College, for its work with a range of organisations and projects on environmental conservation and countryside management.
* Scottish Qualifications Authority award for external customer service - Aberdeen College, for retaining its Charter Mark continuously since 1994, leading the assessor to comment: "It's the very first assessment that showed full compliance against every criteria."
* Tribal Education award for internal customer service - Dundee College, which involved every department in ensuring that customer care was firmly embedded.