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AVA of Choice

Declan Mackay

Declan studied for the Access to Higher Education Health Diploma at New College Durham and was awarded the Award for 'Outstanding Commitment to Study' at the AIM Access to Higher Education Virtual Learner Awards 2023.

15 years ago, Declan suffered a life-changing car accident that had a profound impact on his life, leading to months of hospitalization and the daunting task of relearning even the most basic skills, this was devastating for Declan having achieved so well in his past studies and having a dream of studying architecture. Yet Declan persevered through his recovery displaying immense resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

After many years of feeling ready to return to education, despite the lingering short-term memory issues resulting from the accident, Declan embarked on his degree program, starting in September 2022. After initally wanting to become a nurse, driven by his deep admiration for the profession that inspired him during his own medical journey, Declan decided that podiatry offered greater opportunities and challenges and so the Access to HE Diploma in Health was the best fit for him to start his journey.

Declan went on to not only excelled academically, but also become an outstanding role model for his peers. His commitment to his studies is exemplary, evident through his remarkable 100% attendance record. He consistently invests countless hours in the library, perfecting his work to achieve exceptional results. His work consistently attains distinction level and occasionally reaches the impressive level 4. Additionally, he actively engages with his classmates, providing support and guidance while being the first to seek out relevant books and resources. The unwavering determination and indomitable spirit that Declan presents are truly remarkable. He refused to let any obstacle hinder his progress and emerged as an exceptional student, serving as an inspiration to others. His outstanding commitment to his studies, combined with his dedication to helping his peers, made him an extremely deserving recipient of the Outstanding Commitment to Study award.


Having attended high school between 2002 and 2008 I have always been a studious person who always puts their maximum effort and commitment into my studies. I have always enjoyed the process of learning new subjects and topics and as my dream at high school was to become an architect, mathematics and physics were always my most successful subjects. Sadly in 2007 I was a front seat passenger in a serious road traffic accident which put my academic progression on hold for an extended period of time. In this accident I suffered many physical injuries, the most serious and life threatening being extensive skulls fractures and multiple fractures of both of my femurs which left me immobile for a period of time. I also suffered significant brain injuries in the accident in question with my left frontal lobe of my brain being the most affected. There was extensive rehabilitation for many years after this accident and my education stopped at that point until I felt ready to put my all back in to creating a rewarding future career for myself. As I had spent time in medical facilities during my recovery my appreciation and admiration for our NHS staff at all levels made me have a real drive to pursue a career in the medical field because I feel that the experience of helping members of the public through medical problems and emergencies would be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.  
I chose to study an access to higher education health diploma in order to put me in the best possible position to succeed in my future studies and to gain some confidence in the subjects that will be studied further during my university degree. The injury to my brain has meant that I do suffer from a lack of confidence in my work as well as having some short-term memory problems, but the course that I have studied this year has provided me with the knowledge that I have the ability to succeed in the podiatric field that I intend to enter after the degree that I begin studying in September of this year. 

The course I studied this year was highly enjoyable although because I had been out of study for a period of time the workload did catch me slightly off guard initially. The subjects covered during my course were all extremely interesting and covered many different areas which will serve me well in my further studies. My thanks and gratitude go to my teachers as I cannot rate their teachings highly enough, and I have never experienced teachers who give so much to help their students to succeed. All of the facilities within my college were also impeccable, with the college library offering all the resources needed for me to succeed and score high grades in all of my assignments. 

My further studies will begin in September when I start a podiatry degree which I am looking forward to immensely. The college has provided me with confidence in myself that I never had prior to studying access to HE and I know that when I show the same determination and commitment that I have this year that I can do myself proud. 

Finally, being nominated for this award is truly humbling and I am extremely thankful to the staff of New College Durham who have given me the chance to show what I can do.

Declan Mackay - Access to HE Health Diploma Graduate