Abigail Underwood

Music, Sound Production & Drama

HND Acting & Performance

“I’m very grateful to NESCol for all they have given me and being named SQA Award winner is the icing on the cake.”

Abigail Underwood (33) has been named as this year’s Scottish Qualifications Authority Student Award for 2023 at the NESCol Aberdeen Graduation Ceremony. The special recognition was awarded to Abigail, an HND Acting and Performance graduate, for her exceptional achievements and positive impact on her fellow students, staff and the wider community.

Abigail came to NESCol after a difficult few years. She struggled with mental health issues and misdiagnosis before being diagnosed as autistic. She was made redundant from her career in payroll and then the pandemic hit.

Abigail said: “My confidence was low and I was really uncertain about what was next for me. Having always loved drama at school I decided to look into options at NESCol and ended up being accepted on the HND, already having a degree behind me.”

“I really enjoyed the course and got so much out of it. It didn’t come without its challenges but with the help of both the lecturing and student support teams, I was able to communicate my needs and become confident in the realisation that everyone learns differently. My time at College massively improved my confidence and helped me realise my potential.”

Abigail made a lasting impression on the acting and performance lecturing team and was nominated and won the Go Excel! Category at the College’s annual student achievement awards, Go Celebrate! In addition she was named ‘Actress of the Year’ by her 2022-2023 student cohort.

Reflecting on Abigail’s success at College and subsequent award nominations, Lecturer Hannah Macbeth said: “I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Abi as she completed her HND at City Campus. Initially, she had a lot of reservations about completing the qualification as she felt her autism presented barriers to learning which within our industry can be difficult to work around. However, with College support staff providing a person-centred approach that took into account her individual needs and preferences she produced outstanding work in each module undertaken.

“Abi took her academic responsibilities seriously, consistently demonstrating a strong work ethic and a passion for learning and developing her understanding of the creative industry. She was attentive in class, actively participating in discussions and asking thoughtful questions which also encouraged her peers to confidently take part. Additionally, she was respectful and considerate towards her peers and lecturers, demonstrating excellent interpersonal skills. “

Through studying on the course, Abi took into account disability in theatre and took it upon herself to join the wayWORD Festival committee, putting together a panel of guests to address and discuss the topic. She reached out to multiple individuals and organisations including Equity Actors Union and Birds of Paradise Theatre Company, who agreed to join the conversation and address the concerns and barriers faced by disabled artists. Abigail co-chaired the panel at an event at City Campus recently as a part of wayWORD Festival’s Day of Drama, showing her growth in confidence and that she has gone above and beyond in her endeavours, not only as a student but as a creative who wants to work within a more inclusive industry.

Abigail has used her HND to progress into the BA (Hons) Professional Theatre Practice at Dundee and Angus College in partnership with the University of West London.

Abigail said: “It’s another year of hard work but I’m positive about the future and excited about the opportunities ahead. I’m very grateful to NESCol for all they have given me and being named SQA Award winner is the icing on the cake. I hope that others who have disabilities will take inspiration from my story, I see it as something to celebrate!”