Postgraduate week 2021 - A mature student's perspective
It’s the final day of postgraduate week, and today we meet Clive Thomas, Commercial Planning Manager at Manor Marine, who has recently completed the MSc Project Management course at Solent.
We caught up with Clive, who shared his thoughts on being a mature student, how he managed to maintain his work/life balance, and advice he would give to those thinking of embarking on a postgraduate course at Solent.
Hi Clive, tell us why you decided to study this course at Solent:
One of my ex-colleagues had recently studied at Solent University and encouraged me to look at the MSc Project Management course. It needs to be noted that I did not have a degree (only an HNC) and was not convinced I was able to complete an MSc. Therefore, I rang and spoke to the head of the course, Paul Summers, and after a long and very encouraging conversation with him, it was obvious that my working experience (with my HNC) would be a strong influence in the University accepting me. So, I choose Solent because of the ’personal touch’ given right from the start, which continued over the course and, in fact after I had finished.
How did you find the work/life/study balance?
It was extremely hard work, studying full-time and working full-time. I needed to be in Southampton twice a week (train ride from Weymouth) and needed to use my annual leave to achieve this. It was important for my wife and two teenage children to help me achieve my goals, giving me the time and space to enable me to study. I also had to look at my social life and had to make some sacrifices, where the study had to take preference. I’m not sure I could have done anything different to make it easier. I knew it was going to be hard work and hoped it would be worth the effort. Two-thirds of the way through the course the UK went into lockdown which added additional stress. All remaining lessons were done online. Solent had that up and running within a few days – very impressive!
COVID also meant I was working from home (and co-teaching my kids) all additional strain on doing my study and dissertation. However, the lecturers were always easy to communicate with and helped me through completing the remaining study and dissertation successfully.
How did you find going back to studies after a break?
I was never worried about going back to study. However, as a mature student, the thought of going back into the lecture room with much younger students was a little unnerving. Yet, from the first session, it proved that I fitted in well, with some classmates a similar age to me. Getting back into learning only became ‘challenging’ when I had to go by what the ‘book said’ rather than using my real-life working experiences. Nonetheless, that experience did greatly help in class discussions, giving different aspects to the conversations. The Solent lecturers were superb. They were always there to help point me in the right direction. Overall, I really enjoyed being back in that study environment.
What did you hope to achieve as a result of studying this PG level course?
I hoped that gaining an MSc would increase my skills and knowledge to enhance my working career. Not only did that happen but I also learned a lot about myself and how I changed how I dealt with different situations. Doing the MSc proved successful before I had even finished my dissertation as I gained a new, much improved, and challenging job. So immediately the study became worth doing – who knows what this will bring in the future?
What advice would you give to other mature students who may be considering embarking on a PG course?
Don’t hold back. You are never too old. Consider the study workload, consider your work/life balance, and what you think you might get from the course. I did the course over one year, but some of my contemporaries did it over two years, pick what suits you best. If you put in the effort, you’ll be greatly rewarded. Don’t think it’s easy, it’s not, but well worth it, I ended up with a distinction!
For me, it cost me time, money and effort – nonetheless, I’m glad that I have done it. Having completed the MSc I found a much better grasp on my skills, giving me greater capabilities within the office and, probably more importantly, it has given me a new confidence and peace in my abilities. So, if you are considering going to Solent University, talk to the lecturers, as I did, and then I expect you’ll never look back. Good luck!