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Debra Jayne Young

BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice (2014)

"Hard Work and Determination Pays Off"

I had been working in local government for 21 years, but was becoming disenchanted with an Appeals process that was becoming less customer focused. During that time I was accompanying my eldest daughter to Open/Applicant Days at various Universities around the UK. We came to a UCLan Open Day and I instantly felt inspired for myself when members of the Criminology team expressed their and UCLan’s ethos of encouraging mature students to take up the challenge. My youngest daughter was just about to start her A Levels, UCLan was now my eldest daughter’s university of choice and I saw this as a now or never kind of moment to reconsider my future.

Encouraged by my supportive family, I started on the Foundation Year and under the guidance of encouraging/supportive staff I gained an excellent grounding in the skills needed to proceed onto the BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice degree programme. I knew it would be a challenging road ahead and I knew if I wanted to excel I had to treat my studies as my new full-time job (8am-6pm Monday-Friday), with unpaid overtime at nights and weekends.

There is no doubt it was often very difficult fitting in my studies with the demands of family life and all that entails, but with due diligence and commitment and excellent support from tutors, the administrative team and the catering manager, I began to believe in myself and realise success could be achieved.

Life at UCLan was not all about academic performance, because it opened up so many other doors: It enabled me to go to Court and experience first-hand how real criminal justice is dispensed in Preston; it was nothing like watching court dramas on TV or reading sensationalised media reports of crime and criminality. I thoroughly enjoyed going to conferences and additional lectures to listen to outstanding guest speakers whose books I had been reading. I joined UCLan’s promotional float during the 2012 Preston Guild Processions which only happen every 20 years, and I went on an enlightening trip to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camps in Poland. One night my daughter rang asking where I was because she wanted her tea and I was trying my hand at my first game of pool!

Being a mature student was no barrier to forming new and lasting friendships with a good mix of students of all ages, who came from diverse background and who had varying aspirations for their future. There are a variety of excellent student support services to be drawn on and forming our own study groups made our lives that bit easier.

Towards the end of my degree I often stayed late to maximise study and revision time, but I always felt I was in a safe environment and staff would jokingly ask if I needed a camp-bed or an office of my own; sometimes they even provided coffee and chocolate biscuits to keep me going. At home, my study became known as ‘the bat cave’, because I would study for hours with the curtains drawn and only emerge in when it had gone dark outside.

All my hard work was duly rewarded when I achieved a first-class Honours degree, and this committed attitude towards studies has enabled me to instil a good working ethos in both my daughters, one being in her final year at UCLan and one in her second year at Leeds. At Open/Applicant Day I can now confidently and truthfully reassure parents and prospective students that studying at UCLan is an excellent investment for the future.

You have to work hard to achieve, your tutors are a very valuable resource so ensure you engage with them and you should grasp every opportunity offered.  I would do it all again and I miss it, but UCLan has not seen the last of me!