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UEL offers trail-blazing course to open gateway to a university degree

'New Beginnings Intensive' course believed to be first of its kind in the UK

A teaching assistant, a personal banker and a DJ are among the first group of mature students to complete a trail-blazing course designed to fast-track talented people without traditional qualifications onto degree courses at the University of East London (UEL). 

The course, which is the latest initiative by UEL to widen access to university education in east London, is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Students enrolled on the ‘New Beginnings Intensive’ programme go through four full days of teaching and self-study, followed by a day with an exam and assessed presentation. If they pass, they can progress to a full degree course at UEL.

Dr Caroline McGlynn, who teaches the programme, said, “This is an exciting course that is fast and challenging but incredibly rewarding. 

“UEL recognises the huge potential of adult learners, but we also recognise that adults often have busy lives with responsibilities. The new Intensive course allows working people or those with caring responsibilities to focus on their studies during holiday or respite time.” 

Personal banker Cieren Morgan, from Leytonstone (pictured left) was one of the 19 students who completed the inaugural course last month.

He said, “New Beginnings has made me realise what I can do – that I can be one of those people who goes to uni and gets a degree. 

“Providing I pass the exams – we find out in the next couple of weeks – I’ll soon be starting a psychology degree at UEL.”

New Beginnings Intensive is open to people have been out of education for a long time or who demonstrate exceptional potential and achievement in their working careers but lack the formal further education qualifications needed to begin university immediately.

They spend the week learning skills such as analytical reading and critical thinking, how to research academic topics and writing academic essays. 

The course is a condensed version of UEL’s highly regarded 12-week New Beginnings study programme, which allows non-traditional students to progress to most UEL courses.

Cieren, 26, excelled at school, gaining six As three Bs in his GCSEs. He began A-Levels in maths, further maths, and art but dropped out after a year. He now describes it as a “blessing in disguise”.

“I went straight into work, and got a job with Barclays Bank in customer services, which I seemed to do well at,” he says. “I ended up getting promoted to a personal banker position which was good for me. I was combining my maths abilities and customer service skills.

“But I was really put off going to uni as I was concerned about the financial side and didn’t want loads of debt. But a new girlfriend explained how loans work and how the money is paid back. That was the green light I needed.”

Dr McGlynn was herself a New Beginnings student. She completed the programme in 2001, going on to earn not just a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s and doctorate as well.

She said, “I believe my own background and experience of university helps me to better understand and guide our students.  Having a lot of study experience means I can give New Beginnings students the best possible foundation for their own learning journey.”

Graduation from the course will lead to a place on a degree programme at UEL of the student’s choosing, including Accounting, Business, Art and Design, Education, Childhood Studies, Health Studies, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Humanities, Psychology, Sociology, and Sport and Exercise Science. Bursaries are also available for eligible students, which will exempt them from course fees.

Cieren’s classmate Sergio Carvaliho, 44, came to London 13 years ago from Sao Paulo, Brazil, spurred on by his love of the UK’s music scene. Sergio (pictured right) hopes to begin the BA (Hons) Music Technology and Production programme in September.

He says, “This course was tough, but I know that with a degree I’ll finally get to advance my skills and produce interesting music.”

Meanwhile, Essex native Debbie Pitchfork (pictured centre) left education at 18 with her A-Levels. She went into banking before making a major career change and becoming a primary school teaching assistant. 

Debbie said, “I love it so much I’ve decided to study UEL’s BA (Hons) Special Education degree part-time and become a teacher. I’ll be doing what I love and I’ll be the first in the family to go to university.

“The New Beginnings Intensive has helped make all this that a reality, I’m very excited.”

UEL is currently accepting applications for the next New Beginnings Intensive course starting 31 July.

Find out more here