Sunderland College’s innovative 360-degree Immersive Space has won Education Project of the Year at the international Audio Visual News Awards 2022 which recognises the excellence in AV Technologies across the globe. 

The state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment – developed by leading, shared immersive spaces company Igloo Vision – overcame tough competition from Burnley College and Tartu University Hospital, Estonia to be named the winner at a ceremony in Barcelona. 

Part of the college’s redevelopment programme at Bede Campus made possible from the Department for Education’s T Level Capital Fund, the Immersive Space is housed within a wider ‘Innovation Space’ and has allowed teaching staff to transform their practice and provide better learning experiences, improving participation, retention and aspirations. 

The fully integrated seven-metre cylinder with full wraparound wall and floor projection creates shared immersive VR environments for students studying a range of T Level and vocational subjects including health and social care, construction, engineering and digital production, while also supporting the delivery of digitally informed therapies for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. 

The Immersive Space also offers a space for better work experience placements to better prepare students for their future careers by transporting them to real-world settings such as construction sites, factories, hospitals, sports stadiums and offshore wind farms, and strengthens local employer partnerships. 

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East, of which Sunderland College is a part, said: “Using these transformative new facilities, school children, industry partners, teachers and T Level students can be digitally immersed in any learning scenario such as within the cells of the human body, through to NASA’s Space Centre. 

“Thanks to the Department for Education, our technical capability – aligned to the needs of industry – has been significantly enhanced with these world class resources. Our staff and partners from across the City of Sunderland were absolute thrilled to hear we had won this international award and recognised for the innovative educational approaches we are providing at the College.” 

John Acland-Hood, Head of T Level Provider Readiness at the Department for Education, said: “T Levels are a key part of the Government education agenda, and our investment has been key to ensuring successful high-quality provision. 

“It’s fantastic to see Sunderland College being recognised for the work it is doing with T Level students and the way it has utilised the T Level Capital Fund.” 

Looking to offer ‘unparalleled learning opportunities’ and prepare students for the world of work through the latest cutting-edge technologies and educational environments, college leaders worked closely with industry leaders Igloo Vision whose unique expertise helped guide Bede Campus’ digital transformation. 

Theo Penty, Head of Educational Business Development at Igloo Vision, added: “Sunderland College is leading the way in offering vocational experiences for its students, as reflected by the recent win at the AV News Awards, something we’re very proud of. 

“We’re delighted to have led on such an innovative installation that is helping prepare T Level students for their next steps in study or employment. With the digital skills acquired within their Immersive Space, Sunderland College is truly preparing its students for the real world of work.” 

Sunderland College recently welcomed the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Helen Whately MP, who was impressed with how the Bede Campus investment is revolutionising education and skills training across the region through T Levels. 

Commenting on the visit, which included an exciting demonstration within the Immersive Space, the Exchequer Secretary said: “Education and skills training are at the heart of our plans to level up across the country. It was great to be in Sunderland to see how our levelling up agenda is transforming the future of learning in the city. 

“The innovative approach to education at Sunderland College is really impressive. With the help of Government funding for T Levels, Bede Campus now has state of the art facilities – giving young people the best possible place to learn, including a simulated hospital ward for healthcare students. 

“Speaking to students at the college, it’s clear they are gaining valuable skills and experience which are needed in the economy as well as helping them achieve their potential. This is levelling up in action.”