Guests of honour 2021

University Centre Colchester reveal their guests of honour for 2021

This year’s University Centre Colchester Graduation will be a special occasion with both 2020 and 2021 cohorts graduating together, after the 2020 Graduation ceremonies were postponed due to the pandemic.

Six ceremonies are set to take place over a two-day period on Friday 8th October 2021 and Saturday 9th October 2021. University Centre Colchester are proud to announce their guests of honour for their October ceremonies.

Students have been confronted with many challenges over the last 18 months including having to switch to remote learning, overcoming technological difficulties and in some cases setting up studios in their home.

Nils Franke, Dean of Higher Education has praised the resilience of both students and staff “The impact of the pandemic has fundamentally altered the learning environment that both students and staff were used to, forcing us all to find creative solutions to allow teaching and learning to continue. The resilience of staff and students throughout the course of the pandemic has been incredible, and this can be seen in the students’ work. The graduation ceremonies will be a celebration of all those achievements.”

Fashion Designer and Company Director, Ashley Raynor will be the guest of honour for the ceremonies on the Friday. Having graduated in 2019 from University Centre Colchester at Colchester Institute with a BA (Hons) in Fashion & Textiles her graduate collection was picked up by New York Fashion Week and she flew out to America to show her collection there in September 2019.

Ashley said “Having only graduated from University Centre Colchester a few years ago, I was honoured to have been asked to be one of the guests of honour. It’s a fantastic university to be part of and I can’t wait to congratulate the students on their hard work and achievements despite the pandemic.”

Ashley went on to work with companies such as Amazon Prime, Nintendo and John Lewis. Her work has featured in over 60 magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Ashley currently works full-time running her own handmade childrenswear company that she set up during her time at University Centre Colchester.

Saturday’s ceremonies will see Steve Mannix, Executive Director of the Mercury Theatre take the stage as guest of honour, which include graduates from the School of Social Sciences. Steve has worked in the arts and cultural sector for more than 35 years and has recently completed the £11.3 million Mercury Rising project to transform the venue.

As part of the Culture and Ceremonies Team for London 2012, Steve was responsible for establishing several of the major projects within the Cultural Olympiad including The World Shakespeare Festival, Unlimited and Artists Taking the Lead.

Steve said “I’m delighted and honoured to be sharing in the celebrations of the Class of 2020 and 2021 as they graduate. Not only have they had to contend with completing their courses but they have also done this through a global pandemic. What an achievement and a real testimony for all their hard work and commitment.”

Steve currently serves on the Boards of Visit Essex, Colchester LCEP, the Haven Gateway Partnership and One Colchester. He was appointed an Ambassador for Colchester in 2018.

Steve has worked closely with both Colchester Institute’s further education students and University Centre students over the years, developing strong links between the Mercury Theatre and the College’s Performing Arts courses.

Students are looking forward to celebrating their hard work and achievements in the Colchester Town Hall next week, followed by a celebratory reception at The Minories art gallery.