When I decided to leave my degree after my first year at University in Liverpool due to student finance problems in 2015, I felt completely lost and undecided on what to do next. The only thing I was sure of was that I needed to move home. At the age of 22, the majority of my friends had either finished their degrees, still completing their degrees or in full-time work since our school days, which made me feel even more behind.
I still find it surreal that young people at the age of 16 are asked to choose a career they want to do for the rest of their lives. I am 26 years old now and if I am completely honest, I am still not completely sure. At 21, after much consideration, I felt I had to complete a degree to achieve successful career prospects. However, I was never the academic type, I was a more practical learner. For example, if I was shown how to do something, I would pick it up much faster and a downfall throughout most of my school life, if I wasn’t passionate about something, I would lose all interest. Therefore, I knew whatever option I chose to study I knew my degree had to be something I was particularly interested in or even good at.
After my time studying in Liverpool, I realised my skills lied in the promotion and the marketing aspects of many of my module tasks. It was then when I got back home I decided to look into courses around, PR and marketing at Universities in Belfast. I looked into Ulster University’s website and seen the course Communication Management and Public Relations. I decided to apply and go to their open day at The MAC theatre in Belfast and it was there I got to speak to the Course Director, Kerry-Ann. I emphasised my interests and that I wanted a course that would be flexible around my part-time job, that was when Kerry-Ann suggested part-time studying.
My perception of part-time was night classes, where the majority of the people would be older than me and I wouldn’t exactly get the university experience. However, Kerry-Ann reassured me that I would be in classes with the full-time students during the day, although it would be up to me what modules I decided to do and how long It would take me to complete my degree. Although for me there were still both pros and cons, one con in particular. A placement year wasn’t included in a part-time degree, for reasons I didn’t understand. A placement year was something I was always interested in as many friends of mine had the opportunity of a placement year and always mentioned that it was some of the best years of their lives, whether they stayed at home or moved abroad. However, the idea of part-time still sparked my interest and I decided to look into it further.
After some research, I was shocked to find out so much about part-time studying and confused as to why I had not looked into it before. What I found was as a part-time student you can be eligible for a means-tested fee grant and also a course grant. I also found out to study part-time was much more cost-effective and realised you can save a lot of money in comparison to full-time. Therefore, if you decide you want to complete your part-time degree in within 5 years, that is just one more year than a full-time degree with a placement year. The part-time total fee can be paid either in an up-front payment which means if you pay the full cost of your annual fees at enrolment you can receive a 5% discount. Or you can opt for a flexible payment, to help spread the cost of your studies, this means tuition fees can be paid back in monthly instalments if you wish.
Fast forward nearly 4 years, it is November and this semester I have started my final year modules that will cover the rest of this year and next. This will be a total time of 5 years spent at University when I finally graduate.
Looking back since I started my university journey part-time, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout my time studying I have been able to balance my degree around my home life, social life and best of all my work experience. Throughout the past few years, I have been lucky enough to secure part-time paid work experience in marketing and Public Relation agencies. Therefore, when I complete my studies in 2021 I will have a degree behind me as well has over 2+ years’ experience in Marketing and Public Relations, which I know a lot of employers look for. Not bad for an extra year of university, and fewer student fees at the end, I must say.
Kirby Axon is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: Kirby-Axon and LinkedIn: kirbyaxon