Before I enrolled on my degree in Food Development and Innovation, I had studied an NVQ Level 3 in Professional Cookery and had been working in restaurants for a couple of years. Before starting I was worried that my lack of A-levels would leave me at a disadvantage, but actually I found that University College Birmingham did offer lots of support for students like me coming from non-academic backgrounds. So this week’s blog is written for anyone like me 3 years ago who is considering starting a degree but has some worries that they might fall behind, with some tips which helped me during my time here.
As well as the usual 3 modules every week, we had a session called Graduate Success or Graduate Advantage. In our first term it was here where we met the subject librarian, learned how to reference and format correctly and had practice presentations to get us used to academic writing and assessment styles. I found these sessions extremely helpful, especially in my first year, as they answered all of my questions about academic writing. They allow you to make mistakes here instead of during your marked assignments. By third year the session was much more fluid and our tutor would open up the session to discuss any topic we wanted, such as CV writing, meetings with alumni and dissertation help.
The Centre for Academic Skills and English (CASE) is a free service in the library for students to use to discuss your assignments with someone who will show you what you need to improve. I found this especially helpful in my first year and taking my drafts there definitely pushed me up a lot of marks in my assignments. It’s not just about bad punctuation or spelling, sometimes you need someone to read a paragraph to highlight the waffle or the lack of sources.
Foundation to BSc Degree
Without the UCAS points of my friends who studied at A-level, I took the route of studying a foundation degree and a one year top-up. Although this sounds like I would have to do additional work, all it actually meant was I needed to pass every module in first and second year and then I’d be enrolled onto my final year. I had a few friends who felt ready to leave after the foundation but personally I had always intended to do all 3 years. I did the same modules with all those who had enlisted on the BSc from the start and the foundation to BSc top-up didn’t change anything about my course. Just to reassure anyone else coming into uni to do this, it really will make no difference to your uni experience and you’ll still get a full degree so long as you pass all your modules.
I hope any prospective students find this helpful. I think it’s brilliant that University College Birmingham helps bridge the gap to help us catch up academically with those who aren’t from practical backgrounds.