University of Chester employee gains degree of her own

A member of staff at the University of Chester has taken advantage of her working environment, by achieving a BA (Hons) degree without having to leave her day job, as part of the University’s “Work-Based Integrative Studies” (WBIS) programme.

Ali Cutler, 36, is an in-house example of the success of Chester’s WBIS scheme, which allows people to follow courses of higher education, while still continuing their current employment by helping them to fit the study around their existing roles.

Ali had already worked in the role of “Senior Administrative Co-ordinator” in the Student Support and Guidance department at the University for five and  a half years, (having been employed at the University for almost 11 years) when she was made aware of the possibilities of WBIS during a staff development interview.  Ali said “I realised that it was very important for me to get a higher education qualification if I wanted to progress my career in the future. Without one, I would have had fewer options for job advancement.”

With an existing Higher National Certificate from an earlier study, Ali was able to incorporate that into her BA degree in Administration and Leadership, which she then studied part-time over the next three years. She found that, due to the flexible nature of WBIS, it allowed her to attend workshops run by the University at Arrowe Park, near her home in Wallasey on The Wirral, which minimised any excess travel time that any traditional study might have created. It also meant that she was able to continue her extra-curricular sporting pursuits of hockey and cricket, missing only one game in the three years.

However, it was not entirely easy and Ali encountered a few difficulties in pursuing her goals, mainly with the self-discipline needed to continue a full-time job alongside a part-time degree. Ali said: “It was very challenging to make sure the right time was set aside. I really had to develop my time management skills to make sure everything was done when it needed to be.”

And it was support from both her employers and WBIS tutors that helped her to get everything in order. She added: “My colleagues here in the department were very enthusiastic about me studying and gave me support wherever possible. And although a lot of my interaction with the tutors was done electronically (due to the nature of the course), they were always very helpful and got back to me with the advice and guidance needed quickly”.

On top of Ali’s achievement from a professional standpoint, it is also very important to her on a personal level. As, she said: “I don’t really come from an academic background, as both my parents worked in factories, so it makes me proud to be able to say I’m now the owner of a degree.”