Education

What can UCP do for me?

The Moment talks to four current undergraduates at University Centre Peterborough about their student experience – and how it has transformed their career prospects…

SHONTEL
FINAL YEAR STUDENT, BA (HONS) EDUCATION AND EARLY YEARS

What led you to the studies you’re doing now?
When I was about 18, due to go to university, I was not well. And it meant that going and studying away from home just didn’t feel comfortable for me; I wanted to be near home. So I decided that I was going to work my way up through the ranks. And so I’ve worked in nurseries, schools, I’ve been a nanny. I’ve been an area manager of a before-and-after school club. I’ve done everything – and I’m now a high level Teaching Assistant (TA) at a local primary school to where I live. When you’re a high level TA, you do a lot of teaching, and it was teaching I was going to go into when I was 18. So I thought ‘It’s time to go and do the degree now…’ I put into Google ‘teaching courses near me’ and UCP came up – and they had an open day. So I came to the open day. I wasn’t going to sign up there and then – I just wanted to find out about it – but I spoke to the manager, Glen Mason, and he was amazing. He said:

‘Look, you are ready; you’ll be fine…’ And I signed up.

Now I’m doing my final year, and I’ve done my three-year degree while working full time.

I know UCP concentrate weekly classes into full days to help students manage part-time work, but how did you manage full-time..?
I do one day a week at UCP, and my employers let me out on release for that day. Then I make up the time doing other bits and bobs around the school. So yeah, it works out! You have to be very structured in managing your time, but UCP are brilliant.
They’re aware that education students and early years students are working and have a focus elsewhere, and the support system at UCP makes it so much easier. The lecturers are amazing as well; they’re so supportive and they know you as a person, so they understand your situation.

How important was it to you that the university you chose was local, and is there an advantage to it being smaller than other universities?
Yes, I don’t think I would have thrived in a 200-strong class. I would have found that very difficult, and I probably wouldn’t have stayed the course. My class is more like an opportunity for me to network, and get to hear how other people do things, because we’re all in the same industry. And being local is very important to me. I’m a home-body; I don’t like to be far from home and my family all live in this area.
I have suffered with anxiety because of health issues, and so coming into here and seeing a familiar face every Tuesday, and knowing a lot of the people on campus, makes such a big difference. You don’t feel worried about coming in, and then you go to your tutor, and they’re like a friend. That’s really nice.

What do you hope this will this lead to?
I’m not sure! I came into this with an intention of teaching, but now I’ve expanded my horizons. And I now know what my strengths are, where my passion is; in childcare and education. And for me, I think I will probably end up going on to a more pastoral role. I’d like to do my Masters, and potentially become an educational psychologist. That’s five years of studying, so that’s a big decision.

Is there anything that you would say to someone considering studying here?
I’m the first person in my family that has gone to university. If you feel like you’re not good enough to do it, but you’re passionate about it, go to an open day and find out more. It might not be the route that you’re thinking, but there will be a route in. Because, you know, life is short – you need to do what you love.

DEBBIE
THIRD YEAR STUDENT, BSc (HONS) COMPUTING AND INFORMATION SYSTEMS

What led you to the studies you’re doing now?
I’m 32. I was a healthcare assistant on a stroke and dementia ward in a hospital, but I had a horse riding accident which meant I had to leave my previous career. I had to figure out where I wanted to go from there. I’ve always been interested in computers and spend a lot of time on a computer, and I used to do a bit of coding in my teenage years – so I decided to go to the local college to pick up some knowledge. I ended up going to Peterborough College to do an Access to Higher Education course, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I’m on my last year of my degree!

Where do you hope this will take your career now?
I thought it’d be good to get into something to do with robotics and artificial intelligence. That’d be really cool if I did end up down that route. That’d be fun – and that’s still a big idea of mine. But I’ve also found, actually, I kind of like working with databases as well, so I’ve got a backup in case I don’t end up working for NASA building Mars rovers… If I can find something in artificial intelligence, or software development or database management, that’d be pretty good. I’d like to find a job that could possibly see me going back into the medical field. So maybe machine learning, genetic codes, tying in my old career in a very different way. That’d be nice. And also, you know, robots on Mars…

Do you get to tinker with robots on your course?
In level six we have an embedded software systems module and we get to play around with robots a bit. We have a few robots that make you think of Robot Wars… They’re on wheels, they have arms, and they can grab things. So it’s just playing around with things like that.

What’s your overall experience been like at UCP?
It’s been, really enjoyable. I’ve really liked it. It’s small, but it’s a good kind of small. The class sizes aren’t overwhelming, and you get a lot more support and help with the lectures because they have more time to help you. Student support are incredible. They make sure that if you need any extra help, they’re there for you, to keep you on track and make sure that you’re achieving your best. And there’s a community side to it as well.
So there’s a lot of events hosted by students this week, we’ve had a Children in Need cake stall today… If you walk through the atrium, there’s usually something happening. And the staff themselves are fantastic. You know, you have lecturers who are not only good at their jobs, but you can tell that they’re passionate about what they’re teaching. They’re not just reading off a script – they have the knowledge and they’re passionate about it – and they’re more than happy to teach you. It really comes across that they love it there as much as we do.

Are you able to make good professional contacts too?
Yes – actually, last Monday we had a guest speaker come in who used to work for a big computer company, and who went off and started his own company. It was really interesting hearing his journey for his business, and he is a contact of one of our lecturers who actually tends to hire from the university. So, a good chap to know!

DECLAN
SECOND YEAR STUDENT, BSc (HONS) BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

What led you to the studies you’re doing now?
I had actually started my own business, having trained as an interactive hypnotherapist when I was 17. I did my A-levels but then chose not to go to university and ran the business instead. Then that developed, and I was a personal trainer working out of a gym. One day I went to an events fair to give out leaflets, and as I was driving out, I saw UCP next door. I had always wanted to go to university, but thought I had kind of missed that opportunity. But I thought ‘I’ll apply and see if I get in. If I don’t, I don’t, but if I do then good…’ And I chose Business Management to facilitate my business, and started at UCP when I was 21.

Did you ever consider going elsewhere?
Well, no, not really. I was running my business out of Peterborough anyway, and at the time I lived nearby at my mum’s in March. UCP and my student loan actually gave me the ability to move out, so it not only allowed me to get a degree, but it’s also given me the responsibility and ability to build a life for myself.

Has your study changed your career path?
UCP actually changed everything for me. I’ve now dissolved my business. Last year, we did a module about sustainable business and politics, and I really fell in love with that. I now want to go on to do a Masters in sustainable business and go on to a PhD. So UCP literally changed the course of my entire life. I’d had a rough idea of where I wanted to go – it was more to expand my business, go online, do that sort of thing. And obviously, the pandemic hit, and that hurt a little bit. But if it wasn’t for UCP, I’d still be going on the same path; so it literally has changed my whole life’s plan, and where I want to be in five years time now is completely different to where I wanted to be two years ago.

What has been the best thing about your student experience at UCP?
The absolute best unique selling point is going to be the fact that it’s a smaller university. You’re going to get so much more time with your lecturers and tutors. If you compare it to big universities, especially relatively close by, you can get class sizes of 150 people, whereas with UCP they’re in between 10 and 20. You get so much; it’s almost like a one-to-one degree. You get loads of support, loads of tuition, it’s everything you can want from a degree, really. People make assumptions about UCP, because it’s a small university, but it’s so big of heart. The staff are so kind and you get so much support. My course leaders are actually doing, professionally, what I want to go into, so that’s been really useful. They’ve given me a lot of advice on what I can look out for, who I should be talking to, where I should be looking to go. It is a fantastic place to be. A fantastic place to learn.

Where do you hope your career will take you now?
Getting my PhD, and hopefully working for the UN or a big organisation like that; consulting with governments with maybe a little bit of lecturing on the side, traveling the world and trying to help change it one step at a time. I love the Dr. Seuss quote: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.’ And that’s how I’m living my life right now.

HEATHER
FINAL YEAR STUDENT, BA (HONS) DIGITAL ARTS

What led you to the studies you’re doing now?
I’m 30 next year, so I’m classed as a mature student, and was actually working full time for YMCA in The Cresset – where I still work. I had worked up from administration in marketing, and when YMCA rebranded I wanted to take on some of the design, because I’ve always been quite arty. I thought ‘I’ll give it a go. I can teach myself the Adobe software…’ I discovered I really liked it, but I felt the need to know how things are done. So that’s how I applied to UCP – and it was actually the first year that they ran the Digital Arts degree at UCP.

What do those studies cover?
We’ve done graphic design, animation, photography, ethics, video editing… We’ve designed a 2D mobile game. We’ve also designed a cinema app, working with user interface and user experience to work out the best way for someone to book tickets online.

How do you manage the balance between work and study?
I currently do two days at work, then two full days at uni. I’ve been working nine to five at uni – which is good, because it makes it easier for students to get a part-time job to work around their studies. You’re not saying ‘Well, I can do this morning, that afternoon, that morning…’ It leaves you free for full days of work, and people are more likely to hire you for a couple of full days.
But it’s also good, I think, for some of the people in my class who came straight from school or college, because you get more of an idea of how a 9 to 5 job works as well.

What do you see yourself doing after you graduate?
In our ethics module we have to think about a five-year plan, and mine’s kind of changed from when I started. I was going to do graphic design. That was it. And in your second year, you do a work placement. Because of COVID, that was a little bit more difficult to do, but because I’m interested in games, I did 12 weeks on 3D modelling – and after 12 weeks decided that I absolutely hated it and never wanted to do it again! So now, I’m thinking about doing a Masters. But it was really good to have that 12 weeks. I was able to try it and see – put my toe in the water as it were.

So study has changed your career direction?
It’s partly through talking to my lecturers, who obviously want you to do well when you leave. I was planning on just leaving uni and getting a graphic design job, but when I was speaking to one of my lecturers he asked me ‘What do you really want to do? What would be the best job you could ever do?’ And I said ‘Ideally, it’d be really good to get work in a gallery or do curation for shows, but I don’t know how to do that…’ And I wasn’t sure that I could. But we sat and planned it out, and he gave me some places to look, and that’s what made me think that I could get that job that I’ve always wanted. It’s about opening your eyes to the other jobs that are out there.

WWW.UCP.AC.UK

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