Mandi Whittle

BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice (2017)

When I left college and enrolled at a university 20 years ago I dreamed of working in a lab mixing chemicals wearing a white coat, but when I actually started Uni to do ‘Applied Biochemistry’, I hated it!  There was no welcome, guidance or direction and I felt I was left to fend for myself at such a young age and navigate a huge campus in an unfamiliar city, with little support. Needless to say, I didn’t last long in that environment and left after six months.  I subsequently returned home and began working for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

In the intervening 20 years, I worked my way up the organisation through administration, management and senior managerial roles and really enjoyed it; my favourite role was that of Crown Court Caseworker.  Sitting in Crown Court every day taking notes of evidence, or running about the place ensuring witnesses were as prepared for their hearing as could be, ensuring instructed counsel were properly briefed, the correct exhibits were present and attending case conferences on the most serious of cases made for very fast and exciting days at work.  When in the office, drafting legal applications or complying with judges orders guaranteed the administrative side of the job was never dull either.  In short, I loved my job!

Unfortunately, the job no longer worked flexibly in conjunction with my circumstances; in 2013 I was struggling as a single parent to get childcare cover for school holidays. I decided university would suit my childcare problems and fulfil a personal desire to obtain a degree that had been quashed earlier in my life.  I applied in 2014 to UCLan and was accepted on the Criminology and Criminal Justice course, I was so excited I would soon be getting an ‘ology’! However, to say I was nervous about starting is an understatement, I had not written an assignment for 20 years and thought I would be too ‘Jurassic’ to fit in.

I attended the ‘Flying Start’ session, which gave an overview of what to expect and what was on offer in advance and demystified lots of my fears.  I took the advice of the tutors and attended the free ‘Wiser’ sessions to brush up on my writing skills and to assist with finding my ‘academic’ voice.  I always prepared for the seminars, which was hard going at times but paid dividends when it came to writing assignments or revising at the end of the modules.  I found the atmosphere on campus completely different to what I had experienced when I was younger, UCLan was really relaxed and friendly and I didn’t feel out of place at all.  All the tutors were approachable and friendly and happy to assist with any questions or worries that I had.  Induction week was brilliant and the level of support throughout the degree was amazing.

My first year flew past, I even tried my hand at ‘Fencing’ by joining one of the society clubs and by the time second year came I had found my academic groove and was looking forward to doing the modules I had chosen alongside the core ones.  The choices I had made challenged and inspired me to work really hard and gave me a different perspective on things.  Aside from all the academic work, I took the opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Brussels on an organised trip related to ‘Interpersonal Violence’ and I also became a volunteer mentor within the local Women’s Centre to gain relevant and valuable transferable skills.  In my final year I embarked upon the ‘Learning Together’ project, which saw male prisoners and UCLan students debating together in HMP Kirkham on an array of topics; an amazing and rewarding experience.

I have met some lovely people and we have all shared a special three-year journey.  I would say you definitely get out what you put in and I graduated with a first-class Honours degree, the LexisNexis Butterworth Prize for best Dissertation and the Professor Barbara Hudson Award 2017 for ‘Doing Justice to Difference’ all of which were beyond my wildest hopes when I started.  I am now about to embark on a postgraduate master’s programme, I might see you on campus ...