Having graduated from university with a degree in Environmental Engineering, I spent a number of years working as a consulting engineer. Over time the limitations of purely technical skills in addressing every day problems became clear to me, since those problems always involve peoples’ values and beliefs. I also realised I needed a range of new skills, which weren’t offered in my engineering education. Having researched a number of University programmes I eventually found the OU programme, which offered the broad range of multidisciplinary subject options I was looking for, all written and delivered to a very high standard.
I wanted to complete the Post Graduate Diploma as quickly as possible, so I studied two 30-credit modules at a time. I found it difficult and demanding, but was lucky enough to have few work commitments at that time. I found the modules to be fascinating and they opened my eyes to the possibilities of the systems approach to decision-making, and how it can be applied to many areas of my personal and professional life. I have used the basic methodology in such diverse applications as the development of Clinical Decision Making in the private sector and Sustainable Energy Planning in the public sector.
Studying the Post Graduate Diploma transformed my view of what education is all about. It also gave me the knowledge, skills and confidence to change career and move into academia as a lecturer, and to work at a much more strategic level than I could have done previously. It has allowed me to lead the development of new higher education programmes and contribute to environmental public policy development, at a regional level. It has also given me the skills to publish work, which I would have never been able to do without having studied at the Open University. Overall, it has paid me back many times over what I invested in terms of my time and energy in studying the programme.
Writing this has really hit home how far I have come and the major impact undertaking the course has had on my life. I left school at 16 and joined the Army as a Junior Leader, so an academic/professional career was not on the cards when I finished compulsory education. Since my OU course, how things have changed! I am now an official media spokesperson for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors at Grand Design Live. I hold four individual Chartered Professional designations and sit on a range of committees and working groups dealing with environmental matters. I work in the City of London where my daily role is to provide advice to support many of the good environmental designs you see in the major developments within the City and West End of London and some of our regional City centres. I am also helping with objections to some examples of design which are still poor.
my combined OU courses have given me is the key to having a voice in
the top level decision making groupings that lead to my views bringing
about real environmental change. I now have
a fascinating and
rewarding career, both in financial terms but - and more important - my
job is far more interesting than my pre course situation. I
really care about the environment, so to be able to work in this
professional field and being able to make a difference has paid me back
for all the long hours and missed weekends with the family necessary
for OU study.
The time and effort taken to complete an OU course has additional knowledge rewards at the end of the study unlike and beyond a traditional MSc course.
Traditional courses are undertaken over 12 months, whilst the normal OU route takes around six years. This extra time really allows you to get into the depth of your subject and because there is less urgency I honestly feel that in the end, the knowledge gained from an OU MSc is far greater than can be achieved by the same person on a conventional course. The extra time gives a student time to think and reflect. On a massive subject like EM, this aspect of the course should not be underestimated.
So if you are thinking of undertaking the course because you need a quick set of letters after your name, then this is the wrong course. But if you want knowledge and a set of skills which will allow you to really understand complex and messy environmental problems to allow you to make an informed contribution to their solution, then I cannot recommend the OU MSc highly enough.
Having studied chemistry as an undergraduate, and gone on to work in IT, I got involved with the Derbyshire Alternative Technology Association, (DATA), in my spare time. Although DATA is a voluntary group, a number of us found that the environmental work we were doing was becoming time consuming, and in the end we decided to start a company, T4 Sustainability Ltd.
We wanted to build a reputation for technical excellence, and extend our range of skills beyond our enthusiasm for renewable energy, to cover a full range of approaches to sustainability issues.T862 has given me the academic background to undertake energy audits and design advice work for the Carbon Trust and other clients, and T863 gives a vivid appreciation of the range and scope of the issues that contribute to EDM processes, as well as the respects in which they can be flawed and problematic. This has certainly enhanced the depth and insight of our work, and the support we can give our clients.
As a lot of our work is practical, involving installations of equipment and taking measurements in industrial settings, My studies have given us not only useful health and safety management tools, but also a broad perspective including atmospheric and wind behaviour which is useful in our wider work.
T802, the MSc module itself, was a roller coaster ride for me. Time was very short that year, and had it not been for the help of my tutor and family I might well have given up on it in the last weeks. In the end however, I passed with merit, and the work has since contributed to material on Solar Water Heating On Dairy Farms, shortly to be published through the Peak District National Park Authority. Like the rest of my OU studies, this has proved very useful, and will hopefully benefit the wider community by highlighting the cost effectiveness of solar water heating in this and other applications, and informing decisions about how much support dairy farmers might receive should they decide to exploit the opportunities that solar water heating affords.