Why I chose a part-time degree

Richard Carr

Full-time study not for you? Here's an option that might suit you more...

Committing to full-time study at university isn’t for everyone. If you have a job or family responsibilities then a traditional uni timetable probably couldn’t fit into your schedule - but that doesn’t mean getting a degree is out of the question.

From one-day-a-week classroom-based courses to those that are online only, degrees come in all shapes and sizes. Take the part-time students at CU Coventry as an example – they meet with their tutors every Saturday to cram in all the work the full-timers have learned in five. It might sound like an impossible task, but they have proved time again that these intensive classrooms sessions and the motivation to learn independently can really drive results.

“I’ve worked in finance throughout my career, but wanted to complete an accounting degree to enable me to progress further,” says student Richard Carr.

“Studying as a mature student felt like a big step, but CU Coventry’s learning model means I’ve been able to continue working to cover my monthly bills while studying.

“No matter what age you are, it really is never too late to start a degree to broaden your knowledge and skills,” he adds.

Almost all universities now have detailed online learning platforms, which allows students to watch recorded lecturers and have access to PowerPoint presentations, documentaries and worksheets. Academic services are also a vital tool. Most institutions will have whole teams of staff on hand to help students master the very specific academic style of writing, researching and referencing.

“Our part-time students come onsite on Saturdays from 9am to 6pm and we’ll summarise all the information, focus on content that needs more explanation and do all the lab practicals as well,” says Natasha Kinsmore, the degree course leader for Biological and Chemical Sciences at CU Coventry. “We also make sure that there are people from the Academic Writing Service available during that day, so the students are fully supported.”

Natasha says that their part-time students often tend to do particularly well results-wise, thanks in part to their professional experiences and the genuine desire to progress. “Lots of our part-time students have jobs alongside their degree and they find it really helpful to apply what they’ve learned in class to their professional work. It can make it feel very relevant,” she says.

“Class sizes also tend to be very small; we have around 10 people. That means you get a very focused level of attention.”

Chris Daly

For Christopher Daly, a Management and Leadership graduate at CU Coventry, a degree felt like an important missing piece of his jigsaw. “I got to a point in my life where I thought it would be good to get a professional, recognised qualification, like a degree,” he says. “The CU Coventry course has really helped me with different aspects of managing... areas that I wouldn’t have really known about or been exposed to before. To study academically at this sort of level - I think it sharpens up your skills for work.”

Chris studied alongside his full-time job as the Airfield Infrastructure Manager at Birmingham International Airport and says the balance has worked well. “I think part-time studying can work with a full-time job. The staff were excellent. We received tutorials, we had dedicated periods where we could contact the tutors, and we always had good feedback.”

Many part-time courses are based on a modular system, meaning students study one module at a time, for a period of about six to eight weeks. Assessments sometimes come towards the end of that one topic, and are often coursework based, meaning fewer, or no end of year exams. At CU Coventry you can study up to four modules, or blocks, in one year, and you need twelve blocks for a degree. There are other qualifications to gain en route though. A HND (Higher National Diploma) requires eight of these blocks, while a HNC (Higher National Certificate) needs just four. You can also choose to slow the pace down if needed.

There are other potential benefits to part-time study too. Some employers offer funding for students who take on a degree linked to their existing career. You might even be able to request study leave for periods when deadlines are looming. Also, the entry requirements are sometimes more flexible than for full-time study - relevant professional experience can be just as valuable as academic qualifications.

“I’ve not been in education for 23 years,” says CU Coventry student Shelley Brunt. “It’s quite challenging doing a job and studying but my employers have helped me work part-time. It was really easy to get funding, which means I don’t have to work full-time and I can focus on my studies.

“I’d just say go for it, no matter what your situation.”

For more information about studying part-time and the courses available at CU Coventry, check out their website.

People are talking about this article Have your say