A university level student from Solihull College & University Centre has shared her experience of studying for a degree at her local college.
Upon completing her A-Levels at her school’s sixth form, Maya Monaghan, 23 from Birmingham, came to the College to study a HND (Higher National Diploma) in Art. Treating it as a gap year, Maya used the time to indulge in her hobby of Art alongside gaining a university-level qualification.
Maya explains: “The environment at the sixth form was quite restrictive so coming to the College was a different experience, it has a lovely freeing atmosphere. The Art course let me decompress and consider my options and it is such a great environment to meet new people from different backgrounds. I feel like I really came into my own.”
After completing her course, Maya continued to study at the College: “I enrolled on to the Access to Social Sciences course. All my friends were at university by this point, but I wanted to explore my options and felt like the College was the perfect place to experiment.”
The Access course gave Maya the opportunity to prepare for a bachelor’s degree, she says: “The support I received was amazing and by doing this course I was well prepped to jump into my degree.”
Maya was accepted to study a bachelor’s degree at the College and spent a further 3 years, partly during the pandemic, upskilling and developing herself. She shares: “It was a great opportunity for me, and I met so many people from diverse backgrounds. There’s a lot of debating and you get to hone the skill of listening. The lecturers make you feel comfortable and safe to speak and share your ideas. You’re given one-to-one support and never feel like a burden to your lecturers. Everything is very well organised and the whole experience was positive for me.”
When lockdown occurred, it was a very difficult time for most students studying at university, however this wasn’t an experience Maya shared. After a brief adjustment period in March, Maya talks about how she felt extremely lucky to have stayed at the College to study her degree: “We adapted very quickly, and our lecturers were always available on Teams. It didn’t feel disruptive, and I was so glad I was here and not studying at a different university as I know people had struggled as a result of the lockdowns.”
The university-level courses at the College cater for students of all ages, with different goals and commitments in life. Maya made some key friendships during her time on the course and was exposed to a wide range of opinions and perspectives. She was especially impressed by the relationship she was able to build with her lecturer: “Zahra Qureshi is a great lecturer and genuinely cares about her students, she always had our best interest at heart and her strength and determination brushed off on us and pulled us through.”
Recently, Maya won an Apple AirTag in a draw as gratitude for completing the National Student Survey (NSS) which allows students to share feedback of their higher education experience. Maya says: “I took part in the survey because I believe it’s so important for students to voice their opinions and it allows the College to understand what they’re doing well and where they can do better. I have had a great experience and want to make sure it’s an even better one for future students. The one-to-one support, silent study areas, and the modern environment are some of the best highlights of my experience here.”
Dean of Higher Education & Research, Mary Younan, comments: “Student engagement is a key strategy at the College. We empower our students to be involved as co-creators to shape their educational experience. We engage both students and staff to achieve the best partnership required for developing a cohesive higher education community. The National Student Survey is one of our wide range of engagement mechanisms to represent the student voice. Fostering dialogue with learners continues to improve our services, the academic experience and our knowledge of learners needs and expectations. In our 2022 HE Conference we dedicated a session on Student Engagement where good practice can be shared with our HE staff.”
Looking forward to graduation in October, Maya shares: “The great thing is that I’ll get two graduations! One with the College and another with Northampton University.”
The College offers a number of degrees in partnership with top universities such as Northampton, Coventry, Newman, and Oxford Brookes.