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By special resolution of the University Council (governing body) and its Senate, it was decided to recognise and celebrate the achievements of former students, who left either Chester or Padgate Colleges before 1979 with a Certificate in Education or a Bachelor of Education (awarded by the Universities of Liverpool or Manchester), with an honorary Bachelor of Education.

The weekend of celebration took place on Saturday, September 14 2019, and alumni from around the world – including Canada, Hong Kong and Australia – returned to Campus to receive their honorary degrees. Around 400 alumni and their guests gathered on the University’s Parkgate Road Campus to accept their honorary degrees, in recognition of their contributions to education and wider society through teaching or other roles.

Four ceremonies were hosted in the University Chapel, where alumni spanning across five decades were invited to stand by year group as their honorary degrees were conferred upon them. Within these ceremonies were alumni with a broad range of significant achievements, including: Directors of Education in places as far away as Canada and Malaysia; pioneers in special educational needs and educational psychology; those with civil honours (including OBEs and MBEs); and a rich culture of lifelong volunteering in organisations such as Scouts, Girl Guides and Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Amongst the esteemed headteachers, secondary and primary teachers, and early years specialists attending the ceremonies, were also alumni in a broad range of careers, including: the Chairperson of the British Para Table Tennis Board; a member of the RAF freefall parachuting team and Physical Education branch; an award-winning children’s author and a well-known non-fiction author; and an alumna who, in 1975, joined a new organisation called the Equal Opportunities Commission and has since worked to eliminate discrimination in education, employment and public services.

The most senior alumnus from Chester College to accept his award on the day was William Palin, who started training at Chester College 80 years ago, in 1939. As well as training as a teacher, William is also a World War Two veteran and, at 98 years old, was brought to his ceremony with the kind support of Blind Veterans UK.

Barbara Blundell, the most senior alumna from Padgate Teacher Training (now the University’s Warrington Campus) was also in attendance. Barbara began training at Padgate College 70 years ago, in 1949, as part of the College’s first cohort.

2019 marked the 180th anniversary of the founding of the institution in 1839. Then known as the Chester Diocesan Training School, it was the first purpose-built teacher training facility in the UK. Now, as the University of Chester, the institution offers a wide variety of courses to over 20,000 students from 130 different countries.

Almost 1,000 more Honorary Degrees were awarded in absentia to former students who were unable to attend.