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I was the first in my family to graduate University: I hope you will be in yours!

I'm totally passionate about de-mystifying university study: it's nothing like as difficult as many imagine. I'm fortunate enough - in my day job - to have the opportunity to engage one-on-one with members of the UK armed forces and explain the reality of university study.



The world of work (and the rules of selection and promotion that increasingly operate there) dictate that, whether you like it or not, a Masters degree is needed to access middle to senior management posts. This is a significant challenge to those transitioning (or planning to transition) from the defence and other uniformed service communities. I recently spoke to a leading 999 service leavers podcast on this topic. Moving to civvy life should not entail any loss of lifestyle, a 'starting at the bottom' or a restriction as to how senior a post they can rise to, and yet a lack of a Masters degree can mean that exactly that can happen.

And so, I think we need to confront why it is that so many people still feel that university 'isn't for them'. Firstly, as as the time of writing Corona-lockdown dominates, there are so many flexible ways of acquiring a Masters. In person attendance is not necessary, online learning is adaptable to work, travel and family commitments. So being able to physically take a year or more out of life to acquire a degree later in life is absolutely not a requirement.

Secondly, with competition comes cost-effectiveness. The Masters in Business Administration (MBA) top-up programme that I lead at the University of Northampton is the second part of a two year course that requires no first degree to begin and can be achieved with 100% distance-learning. For those UK armed forces personnel who have more than 8 years service, they will be paying only 20% of the total fees (currently around £5,800). This is an amazingly good value route to a degree which, for example, can lead to recuitment into the Amazon Pathways scheme or directly into a major government and defence consultancy which is immensely keen to recruit military service veterans with MBAs (I have a podcast coming out on this exact opportunity very soon).

Thirdly, so many people have been written off as not being smart by teachers. And this is clearly something which continues to the current day. There is a tremendous boost in confidence and a massive resolution of such injustice when my learners graduate! And having achieved this, they are almost evangelical about encouraging their children and relatives not to rule out attending university when they are young adults.

Fourthly, almost all of my learners conclude that Masters study is so much simpler than they had been told by others or that they had assumed. If we can find it possible to believe that study is just a series of tasks with requirements (e.g. using direct quotes, properly referenced to explain - for example - the definition of "organisational performance"): then study becomes realistically achievable. If we believe that it is a series of hurdles that require superhuman and rare mental powers: then study is seen as totally unachievable.

Fifth, the most important attribute to have (or fake until it becomes second nature!) in acing academic study is confidence. For reasons that are not entirely clear, I've been lucky enough not to have lacked confidence in throwing myself at essays, coursework, dissertations, research and a PhD thesis. And that's mainly, I think, because I've always seen essays (for example) as contests, a game. I know what ingredients are needed. I know that beyond the specified readings one needs something 'above and beyond' and some flair or elan ..... I know that structure carries 6 - 8/10ths of the load in an essay. If you set up the psychological effect in the marker that you are 'all over' the topic and own the response to it ... you'll do well.

These and many more hints and tips available in my podcast series, free of charge of course, and I'm always open to having a chat with anyone considering higher education or who's shying away from it!

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