DP: Dominic Passfield
CT: Chris Taylor
DP: Thank you for listening to this QAA podcast. My name is Dominic Passfield, I'm the Student Engagement Coordinator at the Quality Assurance Agency, and today QAA is at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. So Chris, what have you been doing today at the Cheltenham Festival?
CT: We have been running a session on how to choose the right university for you, and we have had some interesting speakers. We had two guest speakers, two students that we brought along - Charlie and Emily - and you will be hearing from them in a second; and we have been talking to people about the kind of places that they might get information from.
DP: Brilliant. Charlie, Emily, perhaps you would like to introduce yourselves?
C: Yes, I'm Charlie, I am a 19 year old second-year student, studying at the University of West of England (UWE).
E: Hi, I'm Emily, I'm 24 and I am a PhD student at the University of Birmingham.
DP: Brilliant. Emily, what have you been talking about today?
E: Today, I have been talking about mature student in education, making the right decision for you as a mature student; and also how it might be useful to look at the university websites to see what specialist support there is for mature students and if there is any particular opportunities in universities to get to know other mature students.
DP: And Charlie, how about yourself?
C: I was talking about my path into university, why I chose that path and what mistakes I made, and what things I did right.
DP: So Charlie, why did you choose UWE?
C: I chose UWE - it was the only university I visited which was kind of bad in hindsight, but I fell in love with it when I arrived, felt like I could live there, feel homely there, and the course was also quite good and was very welcoming and had all the content I wanted to study.
DP: Okay. So Emily, what would be your top tip for mature students?
E: My top tips would be - as to any student - would be to choose the university that does the course you want to do, and is well regarded in that field. As a mature student, due to any sort of increased commitments you might have as a result of being a later life learner, you might need to take practical factors into account such as childcare provision, but also as I said before you might want to look at what sort of specialist support there is out there for you, for example if the university runs Mature Student Networks.
DP: Okay, terrific. So Chris, you were giving advice and guidance on the sorts of places to look for information when applying to university; what advice would you give to our listeners?
CT: I think it is important to have a wide and detailed look at the information that is out there. There is a host of sort of comparison websites that have sprung up in the last couple of years: there is Unistats, there is the Which? Consumer Champions website - they have just recently launched one - there is also Best Course For Me, so it is worth having a look at all that information. There is a huge amount of data out there, on student satisfaction, graduate destinations, where people go to work when they have finished uni, what salaries they earn, what the structure of courses are like. One of the most important things with all that information is to actually go and visit the place, to use that information to inform your discussions when you get there.
DP: Yeah, and Charlie, you said that actually when you visited UWE for the first time, that had a huge impact on choosing your university.
C: Yeah, the whole feel of the university is quite important and as I said in my speech, it is not a scientific decision, it was just what felt right at the time; walking round it was all modern, and I felt like I could live there, so it is definitely worth visiting a university before you go there.
DP: Brilliant! How do you think the audience reacted to our presentation today? There were some interesting questions I felt, particularly one from a mature student, and Chris, there was also one about Access, maybe you want to give our listeners a quick overview of QAA's role in Access.
CT: So, Access is a qualification that QAA validates and has validated for a number of years, and it provides a way for people to get entry into university who perhaps don't have the traditional qualification or haven't had the traditional educational experience that a lot of 18 year old A-level students have. And it has been a real success story actually over the last ten/twenty years really, getting thousands of people into university who maybe previously wouldn't have gone.
DP: Brilliant, and finally, just to finish, I think there was a brilliant question from quite a young guy in the audience about the sort of food which we eat, where perhaps from our experiences as undergraduate students - what was everyone's top meal when they were a student? I remember mine was a fishfinger sandwich, because you could always have substantial amounts of fishfingers in the freezer. Charlie?
C: Yeah, something freezer-based: chicken nuggets, or chicken dippers or something like that. So, quick and easy.
E: Mine was probably pasta and tomato ketchup.
CT: Mine was - I used to have a massive bag of pasta that I bought in the international supermarket, that with tomato sauce and often just onions, bizarrely, I don't know why; basically I just used to eat pasta, tomato sauce and onions.
DP: There you go, free recipe advice from the Quality Assurance Agency! Emily, Charlie, Chris, thank you very much, and for those listening, we hope you have enjoyed this podcast. There will be a few links underneath which will direct you both to QAA's website and also the websites that Chris mentioned in his section. Thank you very much.
Unistats | Which? University Guide | BestCourse4Me