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Lewis James

Level 7 Sport and Education

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Lewis James

Lewis studies Sport and Education at Newcastle College University Centre. He Stepped Up to a degree after studying at Newcastle College. Find out what he has to say about his time learning with us.

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

I’m from Morpeth, born and raised. I joined Newcastle College straight from high school, went through my Level 3 BTEC in Sport Coaching programme, and then stepped up to a Foundation Degree in Sport and Development here, before progressing onto a Bachelors (Top-Up) in Sport and Education, and now a Masters Degree in the same course. For years now, I’ve been really interested in coaching football, and I’ve been delivering enhanced football provision to schoolkids, including disability sport provision, since high school. When I graduated from Level 3, I gained a partnership with the NUFC Foundation. I’ve basically been working for the Foundation full-time alongside my degree course, which is made possible thanks to the support I’ve received from Newcastle College University Centre. My degree programme is fantastic because it’s being written by external partners, including the NUFC Foundation, the Newcastle Eagles, and the Newcastle Falcons, and I’m currently preparing to expand the programme even further.

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

For me, it was largely due to the support I got from the degree course staff. All the Sport and Exercise team were so relatable, they helped to coach me through the application process and were really open to answering any questions or doubts I had about the course. The level of experience among staff is also impressive, since one of our lecturers was the manager of Team GB, so they can all provide fantastic insights into the industry.

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

Honestly, at risk of repeating myself, the staff. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else to study a degree course, because the staff at Newcastle College University Centre aren’t just incredibly supportive, and regularly go out of their way to help me, they’re also ridiculously experienced as teaching professionals and sporting coaches. At first, I didn’t really see myself doing a degree, but thanks to the support network and guidance I had from the University Centre staff, especially those in the Sport and Exercise department, I felt comfortable and confident that I would be able to do well. Thanks to the clear support and guidance from the University Centre team, I have been able to surpass my expectations and achieve my goals.

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

I think one major benefit of continuing at Newcastle College University Centre is the range of connections you can get by studying here. The Sport and Exercise team have a massive network of external partners in the sporting industry, both locally and nationally – most notably for me, the Newcastle United Foundation. The connections the degree course offers its students already makes it far better than a lot of other universities, especially in the North East. The best bit is that the staff at the University Centre are always looking to expand and improve, and they’re also really open to getting student input, so that ethos has meant I’ve been able to work with the Sport and Exercise curriculum leaders, as well as my peers, to plan ways we could expand and improve the external connections of the degree course in the future. To me, the skills we gain from these external opportunities make my degree so much more relevant than courses where I’d only been studying theory, since it provides way, way more opportunities.

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

For me, the Sport and Exercise facilities on-site are really good. We’ve got a couple of easily accessible on-site gyms, one of which is specific to degree students and staff, and we have access to the Sports Centre used by the Newcastle Eagles basketball team, which is a great supplement to our on-site facilities. We’re also going to get access to the Newcastle United Foundation building soon. We also have all the resources and equipment needed for a load of different sports in the sports hall on campus, which is great not just for teaching courses and the skills involved, but also for extracurricular activities and groups outside of teaching hours. Personally, I think that helps build a stronger sense of community here at the University Centre, and for Newcastle College as a whole.

What do you enjoy the most about your degree?

I’m going to have to repeat myself again, but for me, it’s the community spirit between my fellow students and peers, and the staff who teach, support, and encourage us. I honestly can’t speak highly enough of the staff in the Sport and Exercise department who’ve given me additional help and built up my confidence throughout my degree. Every department here is full of people who are so passionate about what they do, be it teaching or learner support, but the dedication my own tutors have shown me in the last six years has been inspirational to me. The staff who’ve worked with me have without doubt been the driving force behind my degree, and are a major reason why I’ve enjoyed it so much, and why I chose to step up and to keep Steppin’ up throughout my time at Newcastle College University Centre.

What inspires you?

Sport, and working in the sporting industry, obviously inspires me. My job role being a coach, and the pride I feel in being able to coach, teach, and just help people I know to develop and live up to their fullest potential, is such a rewarding feeling for me. I’m always inspired to keep going and study more, since I want to be the best role model I can for the people around me. I’m also really passionate about football, which has obviously taken me far up to this point – so fingers crossed it will continue to do so in the future!

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

Obviously, I’ve been working with the Newcastle United Foundation for several years now, and I worked as a community coach before that during my Level 3 studies. I’m really pleased to say I worked across all their sporting programmes, including schools sport coaching and disability sport coaching. I’ll admit it has been really challenging sometimes, since I’ve always juggled working for the Newcastle United Foundation with studying at the University Centre, but I’ve always had total support from my tutors and other support staff that has made it much more manageable to continue to perform and excel at both my work and my studies. I’ve also learnt a lot of new skills through the Newcastle United Foundation, including project management and different sport and development programmes, which I’ve been able to apply in my work as a coach and in my reports and projects at the University Centre.

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

Sports and Exercise staff at Newcastle College University Centre work in the sporting industry alongside us, which is a massive draw for me since it means I’m always learning from the best lecturers with fantastic experience. When I started at Level 3, I felt comfortable straight away since despite their great professional reputations in the sporting industry, all our tutors are really approachable, so I felt like I’d made a connection with them straight away. Thanks to those connections, the course tutors can put you in touch with so many different people in vastly different areas of the sporting industry, which opens up so many different experiences to try out for students. I guess it’s quite similar to mentoring – the tutors give us certain experiences, and guide us on how to respond to different situations or experiences, all of which helps us to gain fantastic professional, academic and social skills in the process.

How would you describe the staff at the University Centre?

On the whole, the staff are absolutely excellent, especially in the Sport and Exercise department. I can’t praise them highly enough for all the help they’ve given to me, both as an undergraduate and a postgraduate at Newcastle College University Centre. One thing I’ve noticed which sets the Sport and Exercise department staff apart, for me, is their flexibility, and willingness to be open-minded and take feedback from students to accommodate our needs. It’s thanks to this philosophy and work practice that I can afford to work and study at the same time, which has given me so many fantastic opportunities, and opened up lots of interesting potential avenues for my future. The HE Team are all brilliant too, since they go out of their way to help us with any problems we might face, be it personally or in other areas like writing up essays and reports. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have accomplished much of what I have without the brilliant staff at the Newcastle College University Centre.

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

I think the only challenges I’ve had are my current situation, balancing my studies right now alongside working full-time with the Newcastle United Foundation. While there have been some challenges, since I needed to keep on top off my studies while also working-full time, and I’ve needed learning support, I would say that the Sport and Exercise department at the University Centre are very flexible. My tutors worked with me and the Newcastle United Foundation to find a timetable that suits all of us, and I couldn’t be more grateful that we did, because I’ve learnt so much from the opportunity to both study at Newcastle College University Centre and to work for the Newcastle United Foundation that I know will make me that much more employable in the future.

What kinds of support have you received during your studies?

In terms of support and guidance, I’ve obviously received a lot of help from my tutors, and indeed the whole Sport and Exercise department, throughout my time at the University Centre. They gave me advice during my application for degree studies, but also for the interview process for the Newcastle United Foundation, and have been great help and collaborators in all the work and degree studies that came after.

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

For me, it was making friends, learning, and building a strong sense of community. There hasn’t been one single point I can really pick out as my highlight, since my entire time studying at Newcastle College University Centre has been such a positive experience. Even though I’m obviously pleased and proud of getting the job at the Newcastle United Foundation, personally, I place more value on the friendships I’ve made here, and the opportunities I’ve had to engage with staff at the University Centre, and their wider professional networks.

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

Newcastle is a great city, and a really canny night out! The city as a whole is a good place to study, I think, since it’s very student-friendly. Obviously, the nightlife is notoriously good, so the typical “student life” has a lot going for it, but in terms of where Newcastle College University Centre fits into that, the main campus being so close to the city centre is really convenient, not just for nights but during the day, since you can walk ten minutes and be right in the heart of town. There are loads of different shops and places to eat and drink nearby, both on and off campus, and loads of places to either work or relax and meet up with friends. I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

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

I’ve mentioned that the Sport and Exercise staff all have years of fantastic industry experience, so their advice has really shaped me in terms of my approach to a career in sport after I graduate from Newcastle College University Centre, and how I should conduct myself in the world of work. Since I’ve also managed to gain my own experience on the degree course, I know exactly how to attain my career goals thanks to the support and preparation I’ve received here at Newcastle College University Centre.

What are your plans after you graduate?

My plan is to continue working full-time at the Newcastle United Foundation, and to stay connected with the staff here at the University Centre. I’d love to help build stronger connections between the Foundation and the Sport and Exercise department moving forward, and be a real asset to both institutions. After that, I don’t have too many plans, but I’d like to see what opportunities present themselves for where I can go in the sporting industry.

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

I would absolutely say to do it! The degree course has fantastic content and coverage, and the environment of the University Centre is so supportive, and a great place to learn. What the course here offers is so different from other universities, not just in terms of content but also with the provision for learners, and the level of support you’ll get from our staff at Newcastle College University Centre. This is the only place that I would want to study, the only place that I would choose to attend university or study a degree – and I am so glad that I chose to step up and study here, even if I’m sad that time is coming to an end.

Describe your student experience in three words.

Fun. Community. Connections.

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

Build a positive relationship with staff.

Work outside of studying – you’ll learn important skills and make additional connections.

Do a Sport degree!

Have fun, try not to stress, and enjoy it!

Learn – study the course you most want, learn everything you can (especially optional modules) and take every opportunity to improve yourself if you can.