Part-time study — the flexible option for lifelong learning
Balancing university with other commitments can feel like a huge challenge. Mari Iwatani, a student at the Lifelong Learning Centre, reveals how part-time study gave her the opportunity to take the next step in advancing her career.
I’ve been working as a Teaching Assistant (Special Educational Needs) at my local primary school for three years – an experience I’ve found to be joyful and rewarding. But when I completed my CACHE Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning, I knew I wanted to study further.
As I was searching and trying to find out more about my options, I came across the part-time Foundation Degree in Learning and Teaching (Special Educational Needs and Disability) offered by the Lifelong Learning Centre at Leeds.
I made contact with the University hesitatingly, feeling it may have been too much to take on as a single mum with work commitments. What followed surprised me, and inspired me to continue in my studies.
I quickly received a reply from the admissions team and was invited along to a taster session.
Attending the taster session was a turning point, where I realised that there was a real possibility of going to university. Hearing from current part-time students at Leeds and seeing them excel in their studies encouraged me to apply for a course.
At this point, as a single mum and having been away from any form of education for over 20 years, I still had worries about studying alongside work.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to manage my time and juggle university together with all my other commitments. But I was desperate to develop myself – not only for myself but also for the sake of my children – so I applied for the course and was accepted to start the following September.
Supported from the start
There were a number of things that helped me succeed in my first year as a part-time student.
The Kickstart programme, which all new LLC students complete before enrolling, gave me an opportunity to find out what to expect when I started my course.
An introductory module in the first semester also equipped me with academic skills in critical thinking and essay writing, alongside strategies for time management and looking after my wellbeing while studying.
The part-time experience
The University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) offers clear outlines of each module you’re studying, including timetables, course reading materials, and assessment requirements, so you can always plan ahead.
If you ever had to miss a lecture, you have the option of listening to a recording of it. You can also access most of the reading materials for the lectures and assessments online, which is a huge time saver.
At Leeds, the University staff are there to support you every step of the way – all you need is commitment and to believe in yourself.
If you do find yourself struggling, you won’t be alone: You can contact your tutor for academic support, while Student Services at the University and Leeds University Union can help you with financial advice, wellbeing support or with any other worries you may have.
A new-found confidence
My fear of failure disappeared soon after joining the Leeds student community. I’ve never felt so confident in studying. Being a part-time student is much more fun and much more manageable than I thought.
I’ve even found time to volunteer as a Learning Champion with the Lifelong Learning Centre, speaking to other mature students about their options in higher education, and encouraging them to do the same.
I feel very blessed to have found such joy in learning. If you’re in a similar situation, know that you can succeed as I did – and part-time study offers you that same opportunity.
Mari Iwatani is a part-time student studying for a Foundation Degree in Learning and Teaching (Special Educational Needs and Disability)