International scientist John Spencer receives an Association of Colleges Gold Award

Nelson and Colne College is celebrating after international scientist John Spencer was awarded a prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Gold Award at the House of Commons. The award celebrates the success of further education alumni and acknowledges the vital role that colleges play in building the foundation of successful careers.

John hit the headlines this year for his role as mission co-investigator in the $700 million New Horizons project, NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. He was nominated for the award by the college where he studied A Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and General Studies, before going on to study at the University of Cambridge. He has returned to the college for several events, speaking to school and college students, as well as other members of the extensive alumni network, about the work he does.


Staff and students from Nelson and Colne College attended the awards ceremony in London on June 8th, where John was presented with his AoC Gold Award by Baroness Sharp of Guildford.

On accepting the award, John said: “I’m thrilled to receive this award, and hope it will bring much-deserved recognition to Nelson and Colne College, and all the schools and teachers of East Lancashire, for the outstanding science and maths education that I received there.  My American friends and colleagues have often been envious of the education I received, and I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without that solid foundation.”

Nelson and Colne College also nominated Lotte Gleeson, 18, as a student showing promise in a similar field, to become one of the Association of Colleges’ ‘Future Stars’. Lotte is studying A Levels in Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Further Maths, and has secured a conditional offer to read Physics at the University of Oxford. Lotte hopes to secure a career in Physics research and development.

She said: “Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had been to Oxbridge, so going there myself never seemed like an option. It has only been within the last two years that I have realised just how many opportunities there are for me to explore in this world.

“John Spencer’s story shows that no matter what someone’s background, you can still achieve your goals in life with dedication and hard work. Having the opportunity to meet someone who once attended the college I attend and yet has had so much success has been truly inspiring for me as it has allowed me to imagine that I might one day be able to follow in his footsteps.”

Lotte also attended the awards ceremony at the House of Commons where she had the opportunity to meet John to find out more about what it takes to carve out a successful career.

Amanda Melton, Principal at Nelson and Colne College, said: “It was a real honour to attend this ceremony with our alumni John and future star Lotte – it was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the success of both a former and current student, and for Lotte to gain an invaluable insight into John’s fascinating work.

“At NCC, we are passionate about getting students thinking about their future, and helping them get the most out of College life – not only through their study, but via work experience, enrichment opportunities, trips, talks from inspirational alumni like John, and more. We are always delighted to hear how former students are progressing, and John is a perfect example of just how students can use their time at NCC as a springboard to their dream career.”

Further education colleges provide high-quality A Levels, technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. The AoC Gold Awards highlight the role colleges 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 studying at Nelson and Colne College contact 01282 440272. If you are a former student of NCC visit the Nelson and Colne College Alumni Facebook page to share how you have progressed and to keep up to date with College news, competitions, and more.

For more information about AoC Gold Awards, visit