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Ringing the changes for a new year

Ringing the changes for a new year


02 Jan, 2018

For many people, the start of a new year is an exciting time as they think about what the coming year will bring (and work through their new year’s resolutions). For others it’s a less exciting time. Nevertheless, it is a chance to take stock, think about things that could make life better and to look forward to the coming year …

Some of you may be looking forward to a new job, or new home; some of you may be working towards both, and trying to find ways to make the best choices for yourself and your family. In this digital age there is information about just about everything on the internet, although to make the information work you often have to ‘know what you don’t know’ to find it. This was one of the points coming out of the AFF research symposium in November 2017.

There are a lot of things to think about when you’re changing career – be that through your own choice or enforced because of injury or expiry of a contract – but as a member of the Armed Services a change in career is more than just leaving a job, for many it’s leaving a way of life and a support network, a patch. Making the transition to a different way of life has its challenges, and making time to think about what you want of your new life is very important.

Says Tommy Sharpe, former Royal Marine and currently studying a social work degree after medical discharge: ‘It wasn’t a quick and easy road to this point. I had to pick myself up and really think about what I wanted to do with my life, as well as looking after my health.
‘Most people in the military, myself included, want a quick solution. They want to earn the most amount of money possible straight away, and may not know that there are other options that might take a little longer but may be more fulfilling in the long run.’

Read more from Tommy below …

Let’s think big

If money weren’t an issue …

  • What do you really want to do next?
  • How do you make it happen?
  • Do you need to retrain?
  • Do you need qualifications? A degree?

An Access to Higher Education Diploma could be your first step towards your new life.

The Access to HE Diploma

Access to HE Diplomas are qualifications for adults, designed to prepare them for study at university. There are more than 1,300 courses available throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland; most are available to study at local colleges, although the number of courses available to study online is increasing. Many Access to HE students are studying courses that prepare them for graduate professions in areas like engineering, health, education and social work.

Students on the courses are all looking to change their lives. They have had different life experiences, and many didn’t think they would be able to go to university, but the figures show that each year around 23,000 adult students go on to study a degree after finishing an Access to HE Diploma.

History of Access to HE and the role of QAA
QAA regulates the Access to HE Diploma by licensing Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to award the Access to HE Diploma. QAA manages the Diploma specification, which governs the structure of the qualification, and the licensing criteria that detail how AVAs must manage the qualification.
The qualification was established in the 1970s and continues to be designed to increase participation in higher education by individuals who are underrepresented.

From Marine to social work student

Tommy Sharpe joined the Royal Marines at 21 but had to leave after 12 years because of ill health. His life was the Marines, now it was over and he had no plans for his future.
His experience in military hospitals had made him aware of the challenges faced by veterans in the care system. He decided he wanted to do something about it and follow his sister into social work. He’d left school with few qualifications but a call to a university pointed him to an Access to HE Diploma.

You can view a short film about Tommy’s real-life experience with Access to HE

‘I had very low confidence, believing that I didn’t belong in the education system. The Access to HE course gave me self-belief. I didn’t realise it at the time but, looking back on it, some of the problem of my lack of confidence came from not being very good at reading.’ However, with the support of other students, he achieved his Access to HE Diploma and was able to take up the offer of a place to study social work at university.
‘I genuinely believe that becoming a social worker will have as big an impact on my life as joining the Marines did, and I couldn’t have been any more well suited to joining the Marines when I was a 21-year-old bloke. And, for all of the things I’ve been through and seen up until the start of my education, and what I’m learning now and what I hope to take on into this new profession from the Access to HE course and from the university, I couldn’t be more well suited to it, in the direction that I want to go in.’

The courses are taught by people who understand what it’s like to be an adult going back into the classroom after a long time away. Students receive support for their academic and pastoral needs from both tutors and fellow students.

Access to HE students tend to be adults changing career. They may not all be leaving the military, but they are leaving one life behind them as they work to change their lives. Some have left jobs and many had bad experiences at school.

‘There are probably a lot of people who, like me, didn’t have a wholly positive experience of school, and as a result spent years assuming that academic study wasn’t for them. For me, undertaking an Access to HE course changed that view. With the help of supportive, good-humoured and patient tutors it provided me with the tools and, above all, the self-belief to undertake a higher education course.’
Dr Mark Field, former Chief Petty Officer, Royal Navy

Joining an Access to HE Diploma course may also help you build support networks outside the patch – just one element of transition. Access to HE students have a common bond: they have achieved against the odds.
Service leavers have several options to fund their studies:

  • Enhanced Learning Credits (if you’re registered)
  • the Publicly Funded FE/HE scheme (your higher education study and Access to HE Diploma could be paid for, but you must do your higher education course immediately after the Access to HE course)
  • an Advanced Learner Loan.

Advanced Learner Loan repayments don’t currently kick in until you start to earn more than £21,000 per year. And if you successfully complete a QAA-recognised Access to HE course, the balance of the loan will be written off when you complete your higher education studies.

Many universities and charities also offer bursaries to provide some financial support for students. It’s important to look into your funding options carefully to make sure you make the best choice for you and your family. Access to HE providers, your education officer or transition staff should be able to help you choose the best route.

Higher education is not for everyone, but it could be your route through transition. Find out about courses at your local college and check the ELCAS website.

Find out more
You may also find these websites helpful:
Access to HE website
Real-life stories
Diploma database
Advanced Learner Loans

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