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Grace Lilley

Level 6 Engineering Management

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Grace Lilley

Grace studies Engineering Management at Newcastle College University Centre. She Stepped Up to a degree after studying at Newcastle College. Find out what she has to say about her time learning with us.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, etc.?

I’m Newcastle born and raised, and I’ve studied at Newcastle College coming up to five years now! I did my Level 3 National Extended Diploma in General Engineering, then progressed onto a Foundation Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Now I’m doing my Level 6 qualification in Engineering Management.

Why did you choose to step up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

For me, it felt like a natural progression to do a degree at the University Centre, since I studied here at college. It was so easy to apply, and since the course lecturers and content all transitioned straight from my Level 3 classes.

What was it about this course that made you want to progress onto a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I already knew all the staff and the lecturers who would be teaching the degree course, so that level of continuity was quite reassuring moving into university life after college life. Also, I knew I’d have loads of friends around who were also Steppin’ Up, which made my decision a lot easier. Compared to a lot of other universities, the application process was also far easier, since it was quite streamlined and less hassle. Overall, it was a really easy transition and I felt supported right through it.

What benefits do you think there are in choosing to stay on to study at Newcastle College University Centre?

There are quite a few benefits. One is that the degree courses at Newcastle College University Centre are slightly cheaper than similar courses at other universities, and there is a lot more one-to-one support from your tutors and lecturers that you might not necessarily get as much at other universities. There’s a lot of academic support, and the Learning Enhancement Team is always there to guide you. Everyone is so welcoming! You can also apply for bursaries, which are obviously helpful in so many ways but also very easy to apply for. There’s a good work-life balance too, since the flexible timetables mean you’re not tied into a full working week of lectures. The range of course choices is also helpful, since even in Engineering there are a lot of potential pathways to take if you wanted to specialise.

What are the facilities like at the University Centre for your course and as a student?

The facilities are great! The HE Hub is only for degree students, but it’s serves food and drinks so you can relax there between classes. There are so many shops and places to eat on campus, including an on-site Costa Coffee, which is ideal. Newcastle College also offers free parking in the centre of town, which is fantastic if you’ve ever tried parking in Newcastle City Centre before. The Engineering building has just got a new common room with a kettle, fridge, microwave, and sofa, so there’s another great place to relax between classes. The library is also fantastic, online and in person, and the staff there are always so helpful. As a degree student, you can get access to a lot of facilities that non-degree students can’t, such as the gym in the Lifestyle building, so there’s a lot of support for that as well. The Higher Education Support Team (HEST)  can also provide a lot of support if you need help with any disabilities or if you need extra support for exams. Lastly, the Learning Enhancement Team offer academic support, so if you’re struggling at all, they’re a really fantastic resource to use. Make the most of them!

What do you enjoy the most about your degree?

I’d say learning new skills, not just career focused but useful life skills like time management. There’s been a lot of opportunities for progression as well. For example, I recently took part in a poster presentation at the Discovery Museum, which was not only a great experience personally but also a brilliant addition to my CV.

What inspires you?

That’s a hard one… but ultimately, I think it’s success. When I do well and achieve what I know I can, it motivates me to achieve even better. When I get good grades, I just want to keep up the momentum!

Tell us about how you have worked with industry whilst studying your degree (i.e. talks / live briefs / projects).

We’ve had quite a few guest speakers in to talk to us about their experience in industry, which has been really helpful and interesting. The Engineering Expo at the Discovery Museum that I mentioned before had talks from industry, as well as a panel of experienced professionals from engineering who answered our questions. We also got the opportunity to ask questions of previous students who had gone into industry after graduating from Newcastle College University Centre, which was really helpful and interesting.

How do you think learning from industry experienced tutors has benefitted you?

It’s good because they can give you guidance on what is required practically in the workplace. Recently, I’ve gained more experience of that, since I’ve been into professional workplaces, while also studying for a Bachelors Degree, building my CV and preparing for job interviews, all with the help of my tutors and lecturers.  They’ve provided me tips on what to look for, since they’ve been employers themselves, so they can tell you what to say or what to include in applications that’s going to make you stand out as a candidate.

How would you describe the staff at the University Centre?

They’re really friendly and approachable. You can always go to them if you’re struggling with absolutely anything, or if you just want a chat about something. They’re all very caring too, since they want to see you succeed and will do everything they can to help you meet your goals and become successful. Across the board, they’re all really knowledgeable about moving forward and entering into new areas of the industry.        

Have you overcome any challenges either before or whilst studying your degree?

Like everyone, COVID was a massive challenge to face and overcome for me. At the time, I was studying Mechanical Engineering, which has a lot of practical work involved, so it was hard to take online since we’d done a year of face-to-face study. On another level, moving online meant I couldn’t see anyone, which was probably the hardest part for me personally. We’ve been able to overcome it now, and I’ve still achieved a lot, so I’m glad I rose to that challenge.

What kinds of support have you received during your studies?

The Learning Enhancement Team have been a massive support for me. Whenever I’ve had an issue or struggled with anything, even if it was just tiny, I could send them a quick Microsoft Teams message and they would always get straight back to me. If it was anything to do with my references, spelling, grammar, or general learning support, they’ve all been fantastic. Recently, the Employability Team has been fantastic, especially at advising me on how I could improve my applications or interview skills.

What has been the highlight of your time studying at Newcastle College University Centre?

For me, it has to be achieving a good grade at my poster presentation event. I was so nervous, and I absolutely hate presenting anything, so I was really proud of myself. That’s a real personal highlight!

What’s Newcastle like as a student city, in your experience?

I’d say it’s a great city. It’s really welcoming, everyone I’ve met here is so welcoming, and there’s loads to do in terms of shops and entertainment, but also in terms of events for student nights around the city. You’re always meeting new people, whether it be on a night out, or in part-time work, so it’s a really great place to be.

In what ways do you think your degree at Newcastle College University Centre has prepared you for employment?

Other than specialist skills, I’ve learnt and developed so many transferable skills that employers are looking for, especially in graduate positions. Skills like clear and effective communication, time management, and self-motivation are all important for employers. The Employability Team have also helped me to tailor my CV to specific job roles, and prepare me for the different questions that could come up in interviews, so I can’t thank them enough for all their help.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I’m planning on going travelling for a little while after graduating – I’m not 100% sure where yet though. I’ll start applying for graduate jobs after that.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about Steppin’ Up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I’d tell them to just go for it! You absolutely won’t regret the challenge – because it is challenging – but in the end, it’ll all be worth it.

Describe your student experience in three words.

Challenging, but rewarding.

What are your top 5 tips for Steppin’ Up at Newcastle College?

Be organised.

Manage your time well – don’t leave your assignments until the last minute.

Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity.

Make the most of your time, your tutors, and your experiences.

Even when it gets challenging, DON’T GIVE UP.