York College

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20th January 2017

York College Principal Dr Alison Birkinshaw is delighted to accept an honorary degree from the University of York at a graduation ceremony held at the University’s Central Hall.  Dr Birkinshaw has been granted the honorary degree in recognition of her achievements and leadership in the Further Education sector.

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Photo credit: Suzy Harrison

A talented bassoonist, Dr Birkinshaw trained as a Music and English teacher. Her career began in 1984 as a Music lecturer at Nelson & Colne College in Lancashire where she and the team built an outstanding Music and Creative Arts department. 

Moving to Runshaw College as Assistant Principal for Adult and Higher Education in 2001, she played a leading role in the college’s Outstanding Ofsted grading. In 2004 Dr Birkinshaw returned to Nelson & Colne College as Principal and under her leadership the college was given beacon status and an Outstanding judgement by Ofsted. 

Whilst principal in Lancashire, Dr Birkinshaw headed up the national Further Education Reputation Steering Group, successfully raising the profile and understanding of Further Education. Regionally, she has chaired the Higher York Board and Learning City York and been a member of the York Economic Partnership.

In 2008 Dr Birkinshaw became Principal of York College and in 2012 she received the OBE in recognition of her services to further education. The following year she led York College through a rigorous Ofsted inspection to achieve its Outstanding grade.

Professor John Robinson from the University of York conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of the University upon Alison Birkinshaw. He said: “Part of the reason for Alison’s success is her vision for the role of colleges. She believes a college should serve its community, meeting the educational needs of those who come through the doors, whoever they are, and she sees the role of principal as a custodian of the college for the next generation. She has also been a key influencer regionally and nationally and is an education leader of whom York can be proud.”

On receiving the honorary degree Dr Birkinshaw said: “I am truly humbled to be thought worthy of an honorary doctorate and I thank the University of York for the privilege bestowed upon me.

“Working in the FE sector for over 30 years has been a wonderful experience and most of my learning has come from the privilege of working with hundreds of inspirational students and staff. At York College we teach everything, from vocational courses such as plumbing and stonemasonry, to a wide range of A Level subjects and the qualifications adult students need to get on in employment, as well as degrees. It is also wonderful to see so many of our students progress to the University of York, and other top universities.

“My own education has been completely liberating and I feel very strongly that graduates have a responsibility to approach life with integrity and a curiosity about what might be possible. Just as I know our students are magnificently supported by their families, local communities and employers, each day I am also reminded that I am personally indebted to the wider community for its support in my role as principal at York College.”


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