What Learners Say

Carly Owen

About you and background 

 Carly Owen, 29, Aberdare


What course did you study at Coleg y Cymoedd?

Access to Higher Education: Humanities and Social Science


What made you decide to study at Coleg y Cymoedd?

I wanted to go to university to study BSC Social Work.


What are the benefits of studying at Coleg y Cymoedd?

Flexible tutors, good start times, approachable staff.


What do you intend to do next/what are you doing now that you have left?

I am currently towards the end of my second year of the BSC Social Work degree.


How is the course helping you achieve your ambitions?

It offered me the opportunity to familiarise myself with academics after many years without it.


How will studying impact on your life? 

Studying the access course provided me with opportunity to embark on the career of my dreams.


Would you recommend this college and this course to others?

Yes and I have done, it is a fantastic way to get yourself back into learning. Thank You.


Tasha Burnell

I am 30 years old, and originally from the West Midlands. I came to Wales when I studied for my degree in Political Communication at Swansea University in 2002, and ended up staying here, and I now live in the Rhondda valley. I decided I wanted a career change whilst on maternity leave with my second son; I had been working in retail management for nearly ten years and had become increasingly disillusioned and unmotivated. The job didn’t suit my lifestyle with two small children and I wanted to do something more meaningful.

After researching what I was interested in, and what was funded, I knew I needed to do an Access to Biological Sciences course in order to gain a place at university to study Speech and Language Therapy. My degree and A-levels were all humanities based, and did not meet the criteria needed for a health sciences degree. I was apprehensive about coming to college with people much younger than me, but it really has been irrelevant, I have made a great group of friends; we have supported and encouraged each other over the last year, and it has been a brilliant experience. 

I have loved being in a learning environment again, and I didn’t think I would enjoy science so much! The course has been really simple to manage as it is over 3 days, leaving plenty of family, work and socialising time, this also appealed to me as it meant lower childcare costs to consider. Also, as I applied late in the year I could only get a place at the Ystrad Mynach campus, which I thought would be awkward, but turned out really well as three of us lift share, which has reduced our travel costs, and it’s not as far as I initially thought.

I got offered a place at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and hopefully will start my degree in September. It is so exciting to begin a new career, and this time I know I am doing the right degree. I am so glad I took the leap to begin a new challenge, it’s not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it, and I would encourage anyone considering it to go for it.


Victoria Whithear

Access to Bioscience 

I achieved 3 B grades and 5 C grades in my GCSEs… back when Take That were still teenagers! 

I had always hoped to return to Level 3 study as I abandoned A-levels twice. I had looked at vocational courses but wasn’t sure as to what I wanted to do next and wanted to keep my options as open as possible. 

On the Access to Bioscience course at Coleg y Cymoedd I discovered I wasn’t nearly as bad at maths as I had been led to believe. My confidence in maths had suffered some twenty years earlier and I had not tested in it since, but was pleased to find I kept up with the class easily. I was also a little more than surprised when I started achieving my first ever equivalent A grades in chemistry and biology. I’ve been in the top five of my class all the way through which has been a completely new, and very welcome, experience for me. 

I found the college a supportive environment. The tutors are always available to you if you are having problems and they encourage you to support each other. My class has an eclectic background but getting to know each other and helping each other through has been a real benefit. 

I have accepted a place to study Podiatry at Cardiff Metropolitan University. That certainly wasn’t where I expected to be. When I started the course I hadn’t ruled out going to university, but as I really wanted to work in the NHS, I expected to use it to prove I had a willingness to learn and that I was capable of more than I achieved at school. By the time I began in September, I had researched the pathways from Bioscience and realised what an opportunity it was. 

Looking ahead, I hope to get a good degree classification so I have the option of post-graduate study. Podiatrists are able to specialise in areas such as biomechanics, rheumatology or diabetes and there are a variety of interesting pathways in the NHS I hope to investigate. 

I work as an optical advisor for a supermarket, assisting the optometrists with pre-screening and helping patients select the right spectacles. I love it, but I’ve learned as much as I can from the role and there is no progression. I spent eleven years at home with my children and had always hoped to return to education when the time was right. I’ve waited twenty years to finish level 3 and I’ve finally done it. The reward is the opportunity to find a career in a professional role that I love as much as optical work. 

You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do when you sign up for the course, but start working on it immediately after and use it to focus you. Other people on the course won’t have the same goals (I was the only prospective podiatrist in my group) so don’t measure yourself against them, but get to know them and help them whenever you can. You never know when you might need the favour back! Bioscience is the most amazing springboard into so many professions, but it takes a lot of dedication and hard work. Find a goal and aim for it. Good Luck!


Gareth Fairclough

About you and background 
Gareth Fairclough, 26, From Caerphilly.

What course did you study at Coleg y Cymoedd?
Access to higher education (Combined studies).

What made you decide to study at Coleg y Cymoedd? 
It was boredom and unhappiness with my lot in life in the years between leaving the army and starting at the college that convinced me. I wanted more in life and I knew that I could do better than I had up to that point, but I didn’t know what I wanted, how I could get there or even if I was capable of what might be required. 

Why did you choose to study this course?
I chose the course for one reason; I wanted to see if I could study at university level but didn’t know what I wanted to do. 

What are the benefits of studying at Coleg y Cymoedd?
Personally, I think that it gave me a taste of what would be expected of me when studying at university level. 
It prepared me for degree level study in such a way that I hit the ground running in the first year at university, having completed the access course which I think was slightly harder than the first year of my BA (Hons) in logistics & supply chain management. This enabled me to get better grades than my peers. I was effectively desensitised to the sudden shock of having to write academically, referencing, lectures, exams and the like having already done all of those on the access course.
I found the help at every stage from college tutors invaluable, from the first day right up to the end of the application process. Before, I had no idea how it worked and would likely have made a total mess of it. Thanks to their help, I managed to get a place in The University of South Wales as well as making it to the final interview stage for St. Edmund hall in Oxford University. 

What are you doing now that you have left?
Initially, I wanted to get into Oxford University, but circumstances dictated that I change my plans. I decided to use my previous experience as a supply specialist in the army and study logistics & supply chain management with the University of South Wales. As part of my studies, I have applied for research studies and year-long placements with several local firms, including the Otley Brewery as well as with Lockheed Martin, a multinational aerospace corporation.
In the last few years, I have taken part in several productions with a Cardiff based youth amateur drama group, with the upcoming production being “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. I also performed in an original opera, funded by the heritage lottery fund, working with cadw, first campus, WAG and the national Roman legion museum. 
On top of all this, I have been working as part of the campaign team for a local candidate for the 2016 assembly elections as the university coordinator.

What do I intend to do next? 
I intend to help win an election, finish my studies, secure myself a job in industry and most importantly, ensure that some very talented young people don’t waste their time and abilities as I did!

How is the course helping you achieve your ambitions?
The course set me up for life, to put it bluntly. It gave me the basic skills I needed to know in order to better myself. 

How will studying impact on your life? 
While I don’t feel that the course gave me better career prospects directly, it definitely enabled me to progress to university, something I would never have been able to do without the course. 
It really did make me more confident; more confident in my ability to learn, to write and to speak. It made me able to look at a challenging situation and think about it rationally rather than simply giving up. Where before, I would look at things and wish I could do them, but after completing the course I look at things and think “I can give that a go!”.
Ultimately, it gave me the tools I need to build my life the way I want. 

Would you recommend this college and this course to others?
Absolutely! It started me on the road to the rest of my life.



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