The first students have graduated from the Royal Agricultural University’s Cultural Heritage Institute based at Swindon's former Carriage Works.
The students joined more than 250 others, most from the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) main Cirencester campus, at the graduation ceremony in a marquee on the University’s front lawn before enjoying celebrations with their families and fellow students.
Professor Mark Horton, Director of the CHI and the RAU Director of Research, said: “It’s wonderful to mark the achievements of the first students through the door of our amazing new building - a case study of how old and new can be combined in Brunel's historic Railway Village.
“These students were able to undertake outstanding research in and around Swindon’s historic buildings and with some amazing learning resources - Historic England, English Heritage, the National Monuments Archive, the National Trust and Steam, the museum of the Great Western Railway – all within a five minute walk.
“All these graduates have now gone on get jobs in the heritage sector. I am delighted to see them graduate and embark on their new careers.”
The Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI), established to help bridge the gap between academic study and professional practice in archaeology and applied heritage, is based at RAU Swindon, which provides state-of-the-art educational facilities, including work space, library, laboratories. and a lecture theatre.
Situated in a purpose converted workshop in the railway heritage quarter, and part of a £1.8m partnership with Swindon Borough Council to regenerate the area, RAU Swindon is described as a case study in sustainable, heritage-led regeneration, and provides modern and fully accessible facilities in an innovative learning space designed to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary studies.
RAU Swindon opened its doors last October, offering Master's courses in The Conservation and Management of Historic Buildings and Historic Environment Management. These new programmes have been developed in partnership with practitioners from across the cultural heritage sector while the CHI teaching team brings together experienced university lecturers and professionals from archaeological and heritage practice.
Addressing the graduands and their guests at the ceremony, RAU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter McCaffery said: “In gaining a degree from the RAU you join a family of more than 17,000 alumni worldwide.
"RAU graduates have an excellent track record in making their mark in the world and, although in these uncertain times it may initially be more difficult than in the past, don’t give up on your dreams. The world will change and you can help it change!
“Someone once said that there are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered what on earth happened! I know you will all be making things happen.”
The ceremony was attended by Chair of the RAU’s Governing Council Dame Fiona Reynolds, as well as other members of the Governing Council, and VIP guests including Lord and Lady Bathurst, Lord Apsley, Mayor of Cirencester Sabrina Dixon, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire Air Marshall Sir Dusty Miller, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire Roger Deeks, and Dr Caroline Mills from the University of Gloucestershire.
Professor McCaffery added: “As a relatively new university, the RAU continues to go from strength to strength. Earlier this year, the 2022 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessed more than half the research carried out at the RAU as world leading and international in quality. The RAU is the leading small specialist university in England for research.
“And in this year’s National Student Survey (NSS), published earlier this month, we were ranked the top university in the UK for being a Learning Community as well as the fourth highest university for Overall Student Satisfaction across English universities.
“We are very proud of all those who have been awarded their degrees today and wish them luck as they go forward to the next stage in their lives.”