Alex Vokes

Alex Vokes

During sixth form I studied art at A level which involved taking photographs for our projects, I got more interested in taking photographs rather than other forms of art like painting or drawing. After completing my A levels I decided to pursue my photography further so I researched foundation degree courses because I felt these could give me a decent head start in. From my research the course that stood out the most was the Professional Photography course at New College, Swindon, as compared to similar courses the facilities were far better than other Universities I looked into. The Professional Photography course had everything I wanted to learn including using a dark room, the settings of a fully manual camera and being able to use a studio with the correct lighting setup, all of which I have not done before.

This course has really helped me to come out of my shell as I used to be shy and not show my work to anyone but after a term of this course I have setup my own website showcasing my photographs. I really enjoy the work and projects we are given and being able to use the up to date equipment. All the lecturers are really helpful by constantly reviewing our work and giving us tips and constructive criticism to ensure we are reaching our potential.

After completing the course I hope to enrol in the Royal Air Force as a photographer to gain vital experience in this line of work to one day open up a studio of my own and work independently.

“This course has really helped me to come out of my shell…”

Christina Cowling

Christina Cowling

“I was working in accounts, and wanted to retrain into mental health nursing. I chose to come to New College, due to the location and the atmosphere here.I was worried I wouldn’t get through the course, as there had been such a long gap in education, but I’ve enjoyed the whole experience from that application right through to the end.

The teacher support has been great, the workload manageable, and I’ve really enjoyed studying here. I’m now going onto a degree in mental health nursing at UWE.”

Julie Kent

Julie Kent

Being in my mid fifties, with two grown up children (one of whom was already studying for a degree in Bristol) I was initially very unsure about whether this was the right decision for me. My colleague and I were running a successful village pre-school; I held a relevant level 3 qualification in early years; had worked as an NVQ assessor. I felt I had the knowledge and experience necessary to do my job as an early years practitioner very well, so why should I take on the extra work involved in gaining higher qualifications?

One of my main reasons for doing a higher education course was that I wanted to become an early years professional, giving me a voice and influence within the early years field and with other professionals.

I immediately felt at ease when I came to visit the programme leader Dawn. Everyone I met at the college was helpful and friendly and also genuinely interested in my views and opinions. On a more practical note, as I was travelling in from Aldbourne the location was ideal. The New College team worked very hard to help us feel confident as students and foster in us a sense that we did actually belong in this place of learning.

The course was hard work and certainly quite stressful at times particularly when assignment deadlines loomed, but we supported one another and had steadfast support from all the tutors.

I completed my foundation degree and went on to gain a full degree at Bath Spa University. Since achieving my BA (Hons) I seem to have been bitten by the HE bug and have recently began working towards a Masters module.

“For anyone wondering whether higher education is for them I would encourage them to grasp the opportunity – it is well worth the effort.”

Niki Willows - FdA Early Years

Niki Willows

I chose the Foundation Degree in early years to continue my professional development. I’d done various short courses around my job but wanted something with a bit more depth. I was concerned about essay writing and my IT skills as I hadn’t really done anything since I left school (many years before) but there were actually study skill sessions in the first term of the course which really helped.


I found the modules varied and they built on my existing knowledge; Making Learning Visible was particularly interesting as I was working in a District Specialist Centre at the time and the observations for that piece of work really helped me pinpoint some areas to work on with one autistic lad. The Guest Speakers bought a new dimension to what I knew about Early Years, after the Forest School session I went on to find out more and eventually became and Advanced Forest School Practitioner myself.


The course certainly improved my practice and also made me a much more critical thinker which gave me the confidence to challenge and change things within my working environment.


I went on to Bath Spa to do the full BA and again this was fascinating; the Reggio module gave me a whole new slant on the pre-school environment and the importance of process not product. This tied in well with the Fundamental Skills and Yoga module combined with a module about Creativity which broadened my thinking on not only how capable children are but how one can learn so much outside the traditional classroom or setting.


I went on to work for a Local Authority as their Play Development Advisor encouraging staff to get children outside to learn and also working with communities on their public play spaces.  I am currently self employed as an Outdoor Play Consultant running staff training sessions and now come back to college to Guest Speak and run  outdoor workshops for a variety of students. Last week I had a mention in Nursery World Magazine regarding my work on nature play. The degree gave me much more confidence and underpinned my knowledge which has helped me get to where I am now.


Rachel Oldham

Rachel Oldham

“I would say to anyone considering studying at New College… just go for it; it will change your life!”

“I returned to study later in life with a family, no A Levels, very little confidence and a sense that there had to be more to life.

As a result of the excellent teaching, supportive staff and the convenient environment of a local college I was surprised to find I flourished and was successful in my studies. I particularly found that beginning my degree in an environment of smaller class sizes and greater staff input suited me, as a mature student, far more than huge lecture halls full of young students.

I completed an access course and then progressed naturally to a degree. I now work as a lecturer in the English Department at New College.

New College opened doors and led me into a life I couldn’t have imagined when I embarked on my learning journey. I now have a job I love, a sense of achievement and some great friends too.

Studying at New College really did change my life and I know it can change yours – do it!”

Tina Mcevoy

Tina McEvoy

“A new chapter in my life commenced. I was officially an undergraduate!”

“It was daunting at first, of course, but it didn’t take long to feel at home. I felt my knowledge and confidence increase as the months moved swiftly by. There were times when it was difficult to fit everything in and I briefly went into panic mode. But it’s not unmanageable, everyone survives! I took a lot away with me from my time at New College; knowledge, skills, ambition and friends. As a small group we really supported each other and we all missed our weekly laughs when we didn’t have to attend college. So of course, we’re still in touch with each other.

But you know the best bit? Graduation Day! What a feeling! Standing there in my cap and gown, I felt on top of the world. What a reward for my hard work. I did decide to continue my studies as I still want to teach. So, I’ve enrolled at Bath Spa University for my third year. Reading the handbooks, the ‘Can I do this?’ question pops up again but I remind myself how I felt two years ago and how great I felt on that day in July. I know I’ll be there again in July 2012 and I can’t wait.”