Student Success Stories

Here we publish student success stories from member colleges.

New College Durham. Jordan Coulthard. FdA Public & Community Services

Jordan has been in the service as a Police Constable for five years now. Jordan chose to study at New College Durham because of the wide range of practical courses we offered. He said: “I progressed from Level 3 to the Foundation Degree and loved the course and the lecturers all in all. I received fantastic support throughout my time studying. “The College had a great atmosphere and I had access to high quality resources and the teaching was excellent. The structure of the course was clear and enabled easy progression of knowledge. My experience was inspiring – I developed a lot of transferable skills and I truly miss it! I know I will take the skills I learnt at college and apply them to my current role and intend to progress my career to hopefully join the CID.” We recently caught up with Jordan, he said: Jordan Coulthard 2023 “Five years on and I am still grateful for New College Durham helping me to develop my confidence and resilience as they have been vital in my day-to-day experiences. The course allowed me to gain an insight into the industry from guest speakers and from trips. Studying at NCD provided me with the opportunity to develop key transferable skills required to get into the service. “I use the skills and knowledge I developed at NCD in my current role. The course prepared me for further training that I have been required to complete as part of my job. I would highly recommend this course to others as a starting point as it will ensure you are in a position to progress into uniformed services.”


Francesca Heartfield. FdSc Health and Social Care and BSc (Hons) Health and Social Care (Top-up)

Francesca wanted to return to education at 21 and found she could balance studying and working full-time at NCD University Centre. Francesca also studied at New College Durham to complete her college qualifications, she said: “The degree I studied at NCD University Centre was only 2-3 days a week so I was able to manage my full-time work around my degree. I didn’t feel the typical university lifestyle was for me so the smaller classes sizes at NCD suited me. With me being an older student too, I preferred that the class was made up of a broad age range. “New College Durham felt familiar. The classes were small and the facilities were available when you needed them. My tutors were able to give me additional 1-1 support and there was even more support available if you needed it. “The tutors at NCD go above and beyond to put provisions in place to help me complete my degree. They were friendly and the classes were small and I just got the education and support I needed. “I found the lessons very flexible – we covered a range of topics, and we were able to visit hospitals and health care settings to expand and broaden our knowledge. I never thought that I would be able to go to uni, NCD helped me realise I was capable of graduating, and it gave me the confidence to explore higher paid and more complex jobs. “I plan to progress into a health setting, and I have been thinking about completing a nursing degree in the near future.”

Francesca is currently a Support Service Coordinator at Thirteen Group.

Emily-Rose O’Neill. BSc (Hons) Cyber Security (Top-up)

Emily-Rose was impressed by the degree courses we offered for her career choice. She said: “I decided to stay at NCD to study at the University Centre because I felt comfortable and knew my way around campus. I also felt supported by my tutors and knew I would continue to get this support if I studied my degree here. “The degree was practical and hands-on and my tutors helped me to find relevant extracurricular activities which I succeeded at, including MOS and the WorldSkills competition. The computing facilities were to a professional standard, we had access to cyber equipment such as Autopsy and Read-Write devices for forensics. “I am now studying for a PGCE and will become a teacher. Everything I have learned at New College Durham has prepared me to teach computing. I loved my time at NCD! I would definitely recommend NCD to anyone thinking about studying a degree.”

Emily-Rose will become a teacher after completing her PGCE.

Name: Laurène Herodin Newcastle College
Course: L6 BA (Hons) Animation
Year of Course: 3

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, etc.?
I come from France, but I moved to the UK to study. After studying a Foundation Degree, I enrolled at Newcastle College University Centre, where I’m now a third-year degree student, and I’ve had a wonderful experience here.

Why did you choose to step up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?
I knew a Bachelors degree would best prepare me for work, and this course has provided me with those skills and experiences. I felt an Animation course at Newcastle College University Centre would suit me well, because it’s very vocational, so rather than writing essays or sitting in lectures, I’m always practising my skills and honing my talents.

What was it about this course that made you want to progress onto a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?
I wanted to study at Newcastle College University Centre because of the course being more vocational and hands-on. I liked how approachable the tutors seemed, and how small the campus and class sizes were. It felt like a safe and supportive place to study. It was also important to me that the University Centre was in the heart of Newcastle. Most of all, I knew that the University Centre had industry standard IT facilities. All in all, it was definitely the best place for me to continue my studies.

What benefits do you think there are in choosing to stay on to study at Newcastle College University Centre?
Having come up through the College, there’s a level of comfort in the environment, the tutors, and the specialist facilities and equipment we’ve got available here. In the Bachelors’ degree courses, students who stepped up can really make the most of the foundations they already have here; I think that makes the initial transition from college to university life a little easier.

What are the facilities like at the University Centre for your course and as a student?
For my course, the facilities are very good. We’ve got computers powerful enough for our animation, and the majority of software I require for my course, like After Effects, also 3D software, greenscreens, the equipment to do stop-motion animation… there’s a good range of facilities we can access. We can also approach tutors about acquiring new equipment on the course on the rare occasion that we’re doing an independent project for which we lack equipment.

What do you enjoy the most about your degree?
Being able to practice and undertake self-directed projects. For example, at Level 6, we do a module on Animation Production in which we can create anything we want, and our tutors are always on hand to help with that. During my second year, we did a character design project: we had to create a character, which could be anything so long as it was to a professional standard. I’ve really appreciated this opportunity to explore my creativity at a professional level, and see the paths which it might lead me down.

What inspires you?
I was really inspired by the animation festival we attended in Amsterdam in 2019. It was great to see so many artists and practitioners, and to take some of this inspiration to channel into my own work. Trips like that, organised and supported by the University Centre, show just how invested our tutors are in expanding our horizons and giving us the boost that we need to succeed in the industry.

Tell us about how you have worked with industry whilst studying your degree (i.e. talks / live briefs / projects).
Recently, I’ve been working with The Great North Children’s Hospital to produce some educational videos for patients suffering from long COVID. Our contacts in the hospital wanted the videos to feel engaging, so they asked us to animate them. For me, this has been extremely meaningful and fulfilling project to participate in. I’ve also been working with a local toy shop, creating promotional animations for them. Our tutors really excel at preparing us for work, including by getting industry professionals to come in as guest speakers: for example, they brought in a guest from Aardman Studios, Bluezoo, and Partizan Studio recently.

How do you think learning from industry experienced tutors has benefitted you?
The fact that all my tutors are working in the industry while teaching me is fantastic. They’re never out-of-touch, since they know exactly what the market is like right now. They also help us with building our brands, developing influences, and other practical skills like sending invoices. They’ve also put us into contact with studios and industry professionals as well, which has been fantastic in helping me secure employment.

How would you describe the staff at the University Centre?
They’re all very approachable and friendly. Everyone is dedicated to teaching, and they really care about the students here – I could see that right away. Even when they’re really busy, they always make more time to help you out.

Have you overcome any challenges either before or whilst studying your degree?
As an international student, living away from home has made things a little bit complicated sometimes. Living in a new city can also be quite lonely, but being on this course is nice, and everyone has been extremely welcoming.

What kinds of support have you received during your studies?
My tutors and Student Services have been a big help. I’ve got a disability so I’ve had support from the HEST team, and I’ve also accessed the counselling services the college offers from time to time.

What has been the highlight of your time studying at Newcastle College University Centre?
My highlight is what I’m doing now, working with the Great North Children’s Hospital. Not only is it a very exciting project, but I’m also starting to feel prepared for work thanks to the tasks I’m doing. Equally, the festival we attended in Amsterdam was fantastic, and the chance to go on the trip at all was a real blessing.

What’s Newcastle like as a student city, in your experience?
I like it. It’s fairly small, so it’s very easy to navigate without a car or public transport – I can just walk everywhere! Since I’ve moved away from home, it can take a while to get used to a new place there, but this city has come to feel like a second home, in a way. I know everyone talks about the brimming nightlife, but what I enjoy the most is the arts scene in Newcastle. There are so many museums, galleries and studios in a relatively small city, so the surprisingly active arts scene was a pleasant surprise for me!

In what ways do you think your degree at Newcastle College University Centre has prepared you for employment?
It’s helped me figure out my specialism. I’ve been given so many open-ended assignments during my course which I could explore through different avenues. I feel like I’ve developed some software and technical skills vital to the industry, but I’ve also developed a more professional attitude during the course. Now I have had all this training, I feel far more confident approaching companies or studios for jobs.

What are your plans after you graduate?
I plan on applying to studios around the country to try and find a job. My dream studio would be Lupus Films, since they make traditional animation, which is what I’d like to specialise in. I’d also love to work with Arcus, a Newcastle-based 2D animation studio.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about Steppin’ Up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?
I’d recommend considering what you want your university experience to be before applying. Academic achievement isn’t the only consideration when applying. You should also factor in if they want to live close to or far away from home, the environment of the university or city you would be living in and studying at, how you would like to fill out your social lives, and whether you would like a more hands-off approach to learning. Personally, I’m glad Newcastle College University Centre encourages collaboration as I love to work with others.

Describe your student experience in three words.
Exciting, hard work, inspirational.

What are your top 5 tips for Steppin’ Up at Newcastle College?
Make sure that’s what you want to do.
Work on your portfolio – presentation is important.
Make sure to have a positive attitude.
Remember that you’re doing this for you, so how much work you put into this will come back to you.
Have fun while you’re doing it!

Today we’re meeting Animal Management alumni Hannah!  University Centre Weston

Hannah studied the Animal Management Foundation Degree, now the BSc (Hons) in Animal Conservation, Behaviour and Welfare. Since graduating, she has gone on to become an Animal Care Assistant at the RSPCA branch in Brent Knoll!  

Hannah’s job is a busy one, looking after the animals in her section of the branch. Hannah works with a wide range of animals including cats, dogs, ferrets and rabbits. We caught up with Hannah to see how she’s doing.  

Hannah with a dog.

What does a typical day in your job role look like? 

“That depends on what block I am on. I am currently on rehoming cats. The first thing I do is unlock all the cat pods and make sure everyone is okay. Next, I’ll pop next door to the ferret unit and make sure Ernest the Ferret is okay and I’ll give him half of his breakfast. Then I go back to the cats and begin cleaning out their inside pods. If I don’t have a volunteer, then I’ll also do the outsides as well.  

“After this I will go back over the ferret block and clean out Ernest, then play with him and spend some time with him. After lunch I will do any health checks, or observations that need doing, as well as any other jobs such as restocking food, litter, bowls, treats or anything else. Usually by this time it is time to start giving everyone their final feeds of the day and start closing everything down.”  

Has UCW prepared you for this role? 

“UCW helped me prepare for my work placement which I did here at the RSPCA and then I subsequently got a job here! During the course we were taught how to do health checks which I now use every day in my job. As well, we were taught about studying behaviour, which is a tool I also use every day, especially when on the dog block.” 

How do you feel that the facilities and equipment at UCW helped you in your degree and in helping you prepare for your current role? 

“The hands-on experiences with the animals really helped. Some of the subjects covered included health checks as well which is knowledge that I use daily.” 

What did you enjoy most about UCW? 

The hands-on experience I gained and the trips as well. The staff also made studying at UCW an amazing experience, they were invaluable to my studies and overall experience. I will never forget them or the time I spent there.