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How distance learning gave me a second chance

As students in the UK receive their A-level results and clearing begins, University of London alumna Natasha Josephidou shares her experiences of studying via distance learning.

Natasha Josephido, Leading Women-2
Distance learner, Natasha Josephidou

I have worked in higher education for more than 15 years, but on a personal level, higher education itself came to me later in life. For a long time, I thought I had missed my opportunity and it was too late to study for a degree. I thought that the only way I could do it would be to apply as a full-time campus-based student. Yet, as a working professional and a mature adult, this did not suit my lifestyle.

However, things changed in this respect when I came across the possibility of studying through the distance-learning route. It meant that I could continue to work whilst studying part-time. I found that studying for a degree in this way is very rewarding and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. It is not without its challenges though and I made many sacrifices, which included foregoing most of my weekends to work on my assignments. Nonetheless, my hard work paid off and I graduated in 2012 with a BA (Hons) in Literature.

I continued my higher education journey with an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature from Birkbeck, a member institution of the University of London. I decided to study for my Master’s degree there because at postgraduate level I wanted to specialise in a specific period of English Literature, which they offered. Birkbeck was an ideal choice for me because it caters for adults who are at work in the daytime and teaching, therefore, takes place in the evening.

Being located next door to my place of work meant I could easily get to lectures and utilise the library facilities. Furthermore, this experience gave me yet another viewpoint on non-traditional higher education provision – something which has been very useful in my professional contribution to the University.

For me, learning has become a life-long commitment (and pleasure!). More recently I have taken exam modules under the BA English distance learning programme at the University of London. This feels even more poignant to me now as we celebrate 150 years since women were first admitted to the University and allowed to sit ‘special examinations’. It has been great to be a student of this world-renowned institution and I feel honoured to be included as a member of the University’s alumni.

My experiences have shown me that distance learning can at times feel isolating, although an evening course with Birkbeck countered this somewhat. However, I appreciated studying with the University of London as I found that having direct contact with my tutors and classmates via the tutor-group forums really made a difference. I felt very supported and I enjoyed engaging with fellow students from around the world. The ethos of the University is to make higher education accessible for everyone, wherever they are located, and this was very apparent throughout my studies.  

Looking back to my time as an undergraduate, the opportunity to study by distance learning has opened up a whole new world to me. It has changed how I think, how I approach my work and how I view the environment around me. Working in the Higher Education sector has further enhanced my passion for learning and my absolute support in enabling others to succeed.

It is only through the existence of institutions such as the University of London that I have been able to achieve something that for so many years had felt so far out of my reach. For this I am truly grateful.

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