This week we have a guest blog from a group of students who have successfully completed a two-year fast-track flexi degree in ‘Early Years Education and Care’ on our Carmarthen campus. They share their experience of studying whilst working full-time and explain why they are leading the campaign to reinstate Winter Graduation at UWTSD.
“We started in August 2017” explains Tracy Leahy, “I genuinely thought I would never go to University, when I saw the course flyer in the Carmarthenshire Journal, I was so surprised. I wanted to see if I could challenge myself, could I do it?”
“I think we’ve shown that no matter what your age, educational background, or other circumstances, it’s never too late”
Tracy and her colleagues Amanda Gale (Gorseinon), Jo Mason (St. Clears) and Jenna Mathias (Llandovery) successfully completed their degrees this past July, and it would be an understatement to say that they are delighted. Studying almost every Monday since August 2017 from 16:30 – 20:30 (and the occasional Saturday), these four impressive women have juggled study, childcare and their jobs over the past two years… and talking to them, they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Asking the group to reflect on their time on the course and it is initially a tidal wave of positivity. The group are full of praise for the course structure, the quality of the teaching and how well the individual lecturers work to take into account students’ work and family commitments. The students on this course are older than average for the University, and everyone works in relevant full-time, professional jobs, and has a family. They really value the flexibility that this course offers and how well it complements their careers; “I wouldn’t have got the grades I’ve got if I’d come in as an 18 year old; my experience has helped me and it’s so relevant to my job” explains Jenna.
Completing a degree inside two years, in evening classes, whilst juggling a job and family life is impressive. This group should be a superb advert for flexible study, and outstanding examples of the genuine commitment to widening access held by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Only there is a problem, as Jo explains:
“We’ve loved this course, and we’d like to be telling people how good it is, but at the moment we are frustrated, gutted, and heart-broken.”
The root of their disappointment is a decision by the University to stop offering a Winter Graduation ceremony, meaning that this cohort face a twelve month wait to graduate from their course. “From the outset we were promised a winter graduation, it was part of our expectations in joining the course” says Jo. For Amanda, there is a practical issue, “we were told in our first year that our graduation would be 5th December 2019. My family want to see me graduate, one of my children lives in New York and has already booked a flight to be here”.
As mature students this group have parents who are older than the parents of most other students, which is another area of concern as some are currently suffering poor health. “However old you are you want your parents to be proud of you” says Tracy, “I want my Dad to see me graduate, I want to show him what I’m capable of. He’s not been well and I’m worried about the delay.”
Perhaps Tracy sums up the group’s feeling the best when she explains “we are so proud of our achievements, waiting a whole year to celebrate seems to us like the moment has passed. It seems to us that this decision was taken without thinking about our course. We are different, we study differently, we are different types of student, and we have worked hard to complete our degree inside two years. This decision is such a disappointment”.
With that the group return to talking about the positives of their course, the bond they’ve made amongst their cohort, and what a difference the course has made to their aspirations, careers and personal lives.
Reflecting on this connection, one of the group sighs and says
“It just won’t mean so much to us in a year's time, we have so much enthusiasm and hwyl right now. Next summer this won’t all feel as special, it’ll be that much more remote”.
Before the group head off for a coffee in the Cwad (making the point that they should make the most of it whilst it was open, as it wasn’t a facility open to them during their hours of study), they outline what they’d like to see happen and how the SU can help.
They explain that they would like to:
Note: The Students’ Union is working with these students to talk to the University about Winter Graduation; if anyone reading this is similarly affected by the decision to remove this event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org