A new step into engineering: Neal’s story


MSc Chemical Engineering

Having done my undergraduate degree in chemistry before moving on to do my MSc in chemical engineering at Leeds, I was quite worried about how I would handle the change due to very little chemical engineering experience. But one thing I can say from the first term is that there was a general consensus that not everyone had a background in engineering and the staff made the transition very easy by realising this. Initially the prospect of doing an MSc that was accredited by the Institute of Chemical Engineers was quite daunting as I was expecting to be bombarded with information from day one, but after the first few weeks I started to settle into the course and I felt a lot more comfortable with the work.

I have noticed that a lot of the teaching staff at the University of Leeds have industrial experiences and can mention many practical examples when introducing us to theory. I feel this is very important and can help us when we seek employment as it allows us to relate the theory learnt to specific industrial situations. I also find the weekly personal tutorials very useful, for someone who hasn’t done an industrial placement during their undergraduate degree this is important in improving my employability and my personal development. Personal skills are examined with my tutor, such as listening skills and writing a good CV, and how they can be improved is discussed; it is also handy for meeting new coursemates as these discussions are in groups, with the option of a one on one discussions if necessary.

Overall my first term at the university has been very enjoyable as well as challenging. I’ve found the teaching staff to be very helpful and easy to contact with large amounts of experience in industry.

Neal is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.

In at the Deep End! Putting on an Exhibition at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery: Abi’s story


MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies

What a term it’s been!

Every year, in the first five weeks of term the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students are given a brief to put on an exhibition in the University’s Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. This year, our brief was to create an exhibition using the Liddle Collection, (held by Special Collections here at the university and containing over 12500 objects and letters) to coincide with the centenary commemoration of the First World War.

Our result was The Individual Remains: Untold Stories of The First World War, which ran from 27th October – 20th December.

Let me tell you, even with a group as big as ours, putting on an exhibition in five weeks is no easy task! From the moment we got the list of objects we could work, with right up until opening night, we worked flat-out developing the theme of the exhibition, selecting objects, researching them, writing interpretative texts, organising a marketing programme – and all the unexpected hiccoughs that came in between! And it didn’t stop there – since the opening we have been undertaking evaluative research and a programme of events based on the exhibition’s subject.

A really exciting moment for me was making contact with Dr. Peter Liddle, who started the collection in the early 1970s. Networking is very important in the world of museums and galleries, so it was great that we could make this connection, especially when it was so relevant to our exhibition – as well as using the collection itself, we used Dr. Liddle’s writing to inspire the title of our exhibition ‘The Individual Remains’. Dr. Liddle was kind enough to attend the opening reception and give a speech, which was very moving and validating for us students after our five weeks of hard work!

The exhibition has been well received, making it into the Yorkshire Post’s ‘Top Five’ things to do, as well as receiving coverage from some national news outlets such as itv.com and the Daily Mail, who both did a showcase on an object in the exhibition.

It’s been a real learning curve; not only were a lot of us putting on an exhibition by ourselves for the first time, we were also getting to know each other, having only just started the course the same week we were given our brief. This experience has proved invaluable. Not only did we all get to know each other and form some strong friendships, we were able to work with each other professionally and learn as a team – sometimes there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end!

So now, it is onwards and upwards to next term – when I will be starting a placement project at a local museum as part of my course.

Abi is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.

From administrator to social researcher: Calum’s story


MA Social Research

Following the award of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package (now Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry), this September I gave up work to embark on a Masters in Social Research in the School of Sociology, looking in particular at wage disparity, social security reform, and campaigns for a greater implementation of the Living Wage across Britain.

For the past few years I have been working in an administrative position, but the desire to pursue postgraduate study in some shape or form had been growing. When it became apparent that a part-time Masters was not an option, and after being unsuccessful in my applications for a research postgraduate position, I began considering the financial implications of embarking on a full-time Masters based on my salary and (rather small) savings. After doing the sums I rapidly came to the conclusion that it was, financially speaking, simply not a viable option for me, having no familial assistance available to me to help with funding. I applied for the Postgraduate Financial Support Package just to be sure that I had done all that I could to attempt to fulfil my ambitions at this time, and was beyond thrilled when I was selected as a recipient of the Package.

Needless to say, I could not have embarked on my chosen postgraduate course without this award. I was the first in my family to go to University, and am from a low-income neighbourhood and background which meant I could not call on the traditional monetary support to finance such an endeavour, so I can unequivocally state that without this scheme I would be no nearer to fulfilling my ambition of embarking on a PhD (and hopefully, a career) in the field of social research and welfare policy.

The run-up to the start of the course was rather precarious for me as I was leaving my previous position on the Friday, then beginning the Masters on the first day of teaching on the Monday; needless to say, “Freshers Week” was a rather busy time for me! What made the transition that much easier was the great work the administrators did in ensuring I was updated with everything that I needed in order to register on my course and set everything in place for the awarding of the PFSP, as well as the assistance of the student support team in the School of Sociology in organising module enrolment and other areas of importance. Following my enrolment I am now fully embedded on my course, hard at work on assignments, and extremely grateful for this opportunity; I only hope that the continued existence of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package continues to help support individuals in mine and similar positions to fulfil their own dreams over the coming years.

UPDATE: Since I first wrote my initial blog entry back in October 2014, I have completed my first semester assignments and embarked on the lengthy and time-consuming task of applying for PhD study at several universities across the country, a task which should not be under-estimated with regards to both time and the level of detail required! This is especially important if you are looking to put forward your own research proposal rather than applying for a pre-existing position on an existing project, and it is important to have thought in length about whether or not you really want to study for a PhD following your Masters: this is the most important part of advice I think I would give to those considering PhD study themselves. I am happy to report that my efforts were successful for my own applications, and I have been offered ESRC funding to study the campaign for the Living Wage at the University of Exeter.

Masters-wise I am currently developing my dissertation and structuring my remaining two module assignments, something that I feel much more confident with after the experience of the first semester: a Masters is certainly hard work and involves a great deal of application and dedication, but it is certainly worth it!

It’s never too late to return to education: Janice’s story

Janice Rusling

MA Theology and Religious Studies

I was so excited when I received confirmation of my funding which has enabled me to fulfil my dream of studying a further degree 40 years after I enrolled for my original BA at Leeds.  It is never too late!

Coming back to Leeds was like coming home… despite all the changes.  However, in terms of learning everything is different due to the invention of computers in the intervening years.  (What do you mean you won’t mark things written in longhand?)  Although I have used a computer for the past twenty years I have not done much online and struggled a bit with registering, choosing modules and generally seeming to live online, but I am slowly managing to ‘get my head’ around things.

What do I wish I had known sooner?  That the portal wasn’t just for registering but actually contained the whole of my life for the next year; that it had automatically set up an email address for me which those in the know were using to send me information that I was oblivious to, and that I could have got ahead of the game by spending time familiarising myself with it before arriving in Leeds rather than spending the first few weeks ‘playing catch up’

Everyone has been so helpful (and patient with my incompetencies).  Even if mentally raising their hands in despair the staff, both teaching and office staff, have greeted me with a smile and an assurance that nothing is too much trouble.  Because I have quite a long commute they have been particularly helpful in organising my timetable to suit British Rail or whatever it calls itself these days.  My colleagues are equally lovely, helpful and supportive; I know it is a disapproved word, but everyone is just so NICE and I feel privileged to be here.

Thinking longer term, because I have been widowed myself I am interested in bereavement support. To this end my dissertation is going to look at how church communities support bereaved people.  Once I have completed my study I hope to be able to use the results of my research to benefit the wider community, by setting up a much-needed bereavement support system in my own church and possibly others too.

Janice is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.

UPDATE: since writing her original piece back in October 2014, in April 2015 Janice has reflected back on her experiences so far

Now halfway through the 12-month course, reality has well and truly set in.  I knew it would be harder than I expected, but it is harder than the hard I anticipated! However, if it didn’t require a lot of effort and discipline the end result wouldn’t be much of an achievement.

My first term was quite full with teaching and the preparation work required for lectures seminars and tutorials.  That was straight-forward (not easy!), but I struggled to do general reading.  After working for 37 years it felt very indolent to ‘just’ sit and read in the middle of the day and it took me a while to become comfortable with it.  I am also a very slow reader – skills@library have a useful course to help with that.

When the Christmas vacation arrived the workload doubled as assignment deadlines loomed.  It is a mistake to confuse the word ‘vacation’ with ‘holiday’.  I cancelled plans to spend Christmas with my family and got down to some serious study.  Of course everyone else was in the same boat and it was great to share mainly encouraging, (sometimes despairing), emails for mutual support.  Computers aren’t all bad after all.

Now we have reached the Easter vacation and the assignment stress cycle is starting again, but we survived the first time and we’ll survive the second!  I’m looking forward to getting everything else completed so I can concentrate on my dissertation without any distractions.

If I could have done anything differently I would have found a way to live in Leeds in term time as although the commute has been relatively easy – except for the morning snow prevented me getting to the station – and the train provided inescapable reading time, living at a distance meant missing out on extra-curricular events and lectures which would have been fun, as well as useful to participate in.

But I have no regrets.  Enrolling on the course has been the best thing I could have done.

Background is just the beginning: Emma’s story

Emma Bourne 2

MA History of Art

For the first eighteen years of my life I grew up living solely with my mum in a council estate block of flats in an inner city area of Birmingham. The area is known for having higher levels of unemployment, gang activity and crime. Although, I don’t believe the area is quite as bad as people make out it to be, it definitely wasn’t the safest place to live. To recall a few of my experiences, when I was in primary school an old lady who lived two floors above us had her letter box set alight by a gang of boys and she died as a result. When I was ten I found syringes in the local park that I later understood to be drugs and when I was eleven I heard a gunshot outside a pub; a man had been shot dead. At the age of thirteen some of my friends began smoking and drinking and when I was fourteen I watched my friend have a knife held to her throat. It was at the age of fifteen that I decided I wanted to go to university because I wanted a better future for myself.

I went to a secondary school that had a lower GCSE pass rate and when studying for my A levels I cried after being told that statistically my middle-class peers were more likely to secure a place at university than I was. I was aware that going to university wasn’t a common avenue for people from an area like mine and for a long time I doubted whether I could make it. Nonetheless, I did manage to get a place and later successfully secure my undergraduate degree in Fine Art from Loughborough University. It was from this that I decided to aim to embark on a Masters degree in the History of Art.

However, students cannot access loans as they can for undergraduate study. Due to my research interests the University of Leeds was my first choice for Masters study, but for the first time in my life it seemed that working hard would not be enough. I needed more than a good degree. I needed ten thousand pounds. It is therefore needless to say that being here would not have become a reality without the Postgraduate Financial Support Package. It has opened up significant possibilities and opportunities toward achieving my future ambitions of entering an academic career. For me, growing up in a low-income area does not have to restrict a person’s abilities or ambitions, but the resources need to be in place for students to access. The Postgraduate Financial Support Package (now Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry) is furthering my education. An education that is not accessible to all and an education that I believe can lead to a better future.