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Three colleges attract royal accolades

Three colleges were given awards at the "Diamond Jubilee" round of the Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. Coleg Llandrillo Cymru picked up one of the biennial prizes for its contribution to hospitality training in Wales and its hosting of the Welsh International Culinary Championships, which provided a showcase for Welsh talent on the international stage. Prizes also went to South Nottingham College for its "Balls to Poverty" campaign, which uses the love of sport to tackle social issues at home and abroad - including reaching 500,000 impoverished children in South African townships. And Hackney Community College in east London was recognised for its groundbreaking work in helping people with mental-health difficulties back into education and work.

'Merger of equals' in the South West

A merger between Stroud College and Filton College in Bristol has been approved by the Government and is set to be completed in February 2012. The new institution will be called South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and was described by the colleges as a "merger of equals", although Filton's principal will have delegated responsibility for decisions at Stroud until the merger is complete. John Huggett, Filton's chair of governors, said: "It is a merger of equals, with each college in a strong financial position and well-matched in terms of our ambitions to increase learning - and life - opportunities for all our students. The merger means we will be able to expand our engineering and sports provision at Stroud and introduce other new courses."

Union members to benefit from skills training

Derby College has struck a deal with the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents thousands of public sector staff, to supply skills training for its members. The deal will mean providing trade union-specific courses for more than 17,000 members in the Midlands, including literacy and numeracy qualifications. Simon Ferrar, manager of the college's trade union education centre, said: "This support will enable the development of workers' skills and confidence, as well as promoting trade union involvement in the skills agenda and showing employers the benefits of partnership working and workplace learning."

Student of the Year Award sees double

The Association of Colleges' Student of the Year Award was won jointly by a 55-year-old who is training to be a teacher and an 18-year-old who is heading to Cambridge University to study medicine. Judges could not separate Keith Southern and Sabyha Khan. Mr Southern grew up in children's homes and left school with no qualifications. After being made redundant 38 years later, he returned to education to study music technology at Mid-Cheshire College - an experience that inspired him to train as an FE teacher. Ms Khan chose Uxbridge College over her school's sixth-form. She impressed the college's staff with her drive, leading its public-speaking team, volunteering to tutor other students in maths and running the campaign for the winner of the student council elections - all that while achieving the two A*s and two As that won her a place at Cambridge.

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