Coleg Y Cymoedd

Professor Julien Baker PhD, former learner of Coleg y Cymoedd, wins golden accolade

Coleg Y Cymoedd

Image - Left to Right. Judith Evans, Principal, Professor Julien Baker, John Phelps, Vice Principal and Ian Rees, Strategic Alliance Manager

Staff and learners at Coleg y Cymoedd are celebrating after alumnus Professor Julien Baker received an Association of Colleges Gold Award at a ceremony at the House of Commons.

The awards celebrate the success of further education alumni and acknowledge the vital role that colleges play in building the foundation of successful careers.

Staff and learners from Coleg y Cymoedd attended the star-studded awards ceremony in London on 10 June where Professor Baker was presented with his AoC Gold Award by Lord Willis of Knaresborough.

On accepting the award, he said: “Obviously the college gave me the opportunity to attend university and fulfil my ambitions. There is a pool of academic talent locally across the United Kingdom that may mature later than the traditional 16 to 18-year-olds that attend, or get a university education through the more traditional routes.

“Colleges of further education (FE) not only provide exceptional vocational education, but provide a traditional educational perspective/roadmap that includes a mechanism for both traditional and non-traditional academics to maximize their potential and realise total academic development.”

Professor Baker, who completed a one-year pre-apprenticeship programme while at the then Rhondda College in 1971, went on to take up an apprenticeship in engineering as a toolmaker with FSG Ltd. He left his apprenticeship in 1973 without completing it and instead went to Pontypridd Technical College to study GCEs in English Language and Art.

After working in industry for a number of years, he decided on a career change and returned to Pontypridd Technical College to study BTEC Building Studies with civil engineering at levels two and three. He progressed to the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff where he graduated with a BA Hons in Exercise Science in 1988. He subsequently gained an MSc in Exercise Science at University of Loughborough in 1989, a PhD in Human Physiology at University of Glamorgan in 2000 and a Doctor of Science at the University of West of Scotland in 2013.

Professor Baker is currently the Director of Research at the Institute of Clinical Exercise at the University of West Scotland. His current research interests include the use of high intensity exercise models in the management of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Alongside, Professor Baker, Coleg y Cymoedd nominated Calum Haggett as a learner showing promise in a similar field to receive the Association of Colleges ‘Future Star’ accolade.  Calum (18) is studying A Levels in Biology, Maths and Physics at the college whilst simultaneously captaining the Welsh age group teams in Rugby Union, recently touring South Africa as captain of the Wales U18 Rugby Union Squad.

AOC Image 1

Image - Left to Right. Ian Rees, Strategic Alliance Manager, Callum Haggett, Learner,  Judith Evans, Principal, Professor Julien Baker, John Phelps, Vice Principal

Calum intends to pursue further studies and is particularly interested in medicine or scientific research.  He was presented with a cheque for £1,000 by the AoC Charitable Trust to help him achieve his ambitions which include continuing to play for his national team.  The money will help him cover the costs of traveling to training, matches and tournaments.

Calum said: “I’m thrilled to have been nominated and have also had the honour of receiving an offer of a place from Oxford University to read Biomedical Sciences as well as captaining both my regional team Cardiff Blues and the Wales under 18s rugby squad. I hope to continue to combine my love of science and sport in the future, playing rugby to a high level and pursue a career in scientific research/medicine.”

Judith Evans, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “It was a great pleasure to attend the AoC Gold Awards and for one of our alumni, Professor Julien Baker, to receive this award.  I was also delighted for our 'Future Star' Calum Haggett who received a cheque for £1,000.  We wish Calum all the best with his A level exams as he aims to study at Oxford in September.

Further education provides so many unique opportunities for people to develop their skills and pursue their career aspirations. Listening to the award winners stories and those of our 'future stars, was enlightening and inspirational.  Further education is creating the future workforce of Wales; these winners have demonstrated that with enthusiasm, passion and commitment, everyone can achieve this goals in life”.

Further education colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. The AoC Gold Awards highlight the role they play in providing over three million students with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy.

Colleges are inspirational places to learn because education and training is delivered by expert teaching staff in industry-standard facilities. From basic skills to postgraduate degrees, colleges offer first rate academic and vocational teaching, in a range of professions including engineering, hospitality, IT, construction and the creative arts.

For more information about AoC Gold Awards visit

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