Hull College wins Jisc-sponsored award for its use of AI to break down language barriers to learning

The Microsoft Translate project triumphed at the AoC Beacon Awards for its ability to improve accessibility and inclusivity for 1,000 learners

Beacon award winners 2024

The Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards shine a light on inspiring and innovative colleges and further education (FE) providers across the UK that go above and beyond for their students, staff and wider communities.

As sponsors for the award for the effective use of digital technology in further education, Jisc is proud to announce Hull College as the 2024 winners in this category.

The college embedded Microsoft Translate technology throughout their classrooms and the wider campuses to support displaced individuals and families arriving from overseas in Hull’s City of Sanctuary to develop language skills and integrate into the community.

So far, the project has supported 1,000 “English for speakers of other languages” (ESOL) learners, including helping identify additional support for learners who were illiterate in their home language, with great results.

Hull College found that, through using Microsoft Translate technology, attendance in ESOL lessons improved dramatically from 65% to 91.5%. 20% of employed ESOL learners at the college also received a pay rise, and 5% were able to move into paid employment.

Cardiff and Vale College were highly commended runners up in the category for their engaging anti-racist curriculum project developed in partnership with MX Reality and the Welsh Government. The £1 million project aims to shape the world positively and break down barriers by using examples of lived experience to tell stories through immersive technologies.

Paul McKean, director for further education (FE), skills and training at Jisc said:

“The standard of nominations for the 2024 award for the effective use of digital technology has been exceptionally high.

“Both finalists were chosen for their use of digital to improve the lives of their students and wider communities. Whether it’s teaching displaced individuals about the language and culture of their new home with respect and dignity, or stamping out racism through shared lived experiences, the impact of these projects is clear to see.

“I want to congratulate Hull College as the very worthy winners. I am privileged in my role to see great examples of the use of digital in colleges up and down the UK, but it isn’t often I witness lives being truly transformed on such a large scale.

“The fact these learners at Hull College have suffered such adversity in their lives makes it all the more impactful.

“I look forward to seeing how both finalists' projects continue to grow and develop, and would encourage all ESOL practitioners to engage with Hull College to learn how they can replicate their practice."