WM College – fostering inclusivity and sustainability

Part of the Transformation in action blog series

In this series of blogs, Dr Katerina Kolyva, Chief Executive of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), reports on her visits to Further Education (FE) and skills providers across the sector. She uncovers the transformational learning opportunities available to students alongside the dedicated professionalism of teachers, trainers and leaders from the wide variety of different providers across the sector.

Dipa Ganguli OBE, Principal of WM College, sits on the opposite side of a desk, while a book entitled Working Men's College sits in the foreground.
Dipa Ganguli OBE, Principal of WM College

Walking into WM College is like walking back in history while getting a very contemporary feel. The College’s CEO, Dipa Ganguli OBE, balances well promoting the College’s long heritage and having a strong commitment to innovation towards its future. 

History is everywhere. The beautiful library has been recently refurbished to host events promoting an inclusive environment for adult education and the names of the principals in a classroom go back to 1854. Dipa reminds us with pride that she is the second woman in her role and the first woman of colour. Committed to a safe and high-quality learning environment, Dipa takes me and my colleague, Claire Nicholson-Clinch, on a tour of the college to meet with learners, tutors and curriculum leads. As she walks into classrooms, everyone is welcoming us with a smile and a strong sense of place. Learners love being here and are clear about the outcomes they expect.

Artwork on display in a cabinet in WM College.
Artwork and sculptures on display in a cabinet at WM College.

For some, this is a safe place to learn English as a first step to their employability and social inclusion. For others, it is a great way to be immersed in art – and there’s a lot of it. We enjoy visiting classes of ceramics (always my favourite), fashion, painting and glass. Everyone is fully focused and engaged and it is great to see the diversity of learners from all backgrounds, across age and ethnicity, all sharing the joy of learning. As one learner puts it : “it is all down to building confidence and spending time with like minded people while being inspired by great tutors.”

Library at WM College. Historic bookshelves sit under archways in the background with a display cabinet in the foreground.
Historic library at WM College

Dipa is strongly committed to her staff’s professional development and the promotion of the adult education sector as a whole in her role as Chair of HOLEX. She is deeply aware of funding challenges and the complex policy landscape of her sector. But she remains positive and optimistic about the future. She wants to see professionalism at the heart of tutors and leaders in adult education, irrespective of whether they are employed full time or work on a freelance basis as dual professionals. She takes sustainability and climate change seriously and is dedicated to making learning affordable and inclusive. As another student told us: “I am encouraged to be me.”