Patricka Brice-Laughton has completed a HNC in Construction and the Built Environment (Civil Engineering) at Wiltshire College & University Centre and is currently in her first year at University of the West of England doing a BSc (Hons) Construction Project Management.

Was there any connection between this course and your military career?

No connection to my military career as I was a system engineer in The Royal Corp of Signals, but I did drafting and building technology at secondary school and college before joining the army.

What transferable skills and characteristics do you think have been helpful in your studies? Do you have any advice for how UKAF veterans and Service leavers could talk about their military experience in their UCAS personal statement and university interviews? 

Some work experiences can be relevant to use in certain scenarios – time management, communication skills, hardworking, and adaptable 

Can you give us some background about your UKAF experience and why you decided to study in higher education?

While my job was technical in the army and had its challenges, I wanted a change in career. Since I never got a chance to do what I loved in my youth, I decided it was now or never to do what I originally wanted to do when I was younger.

Were there any specific initiatives or pathways (e.g. provided from MOD) to help you move into higher education from the UKAF? 

I was able to use the MOD's Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC) Scheme which has paid my tuition until now. I went to the Enhanced Learning Credits Administration Service (ELCAS) website and on there you can see what educational institutions are registered with the program and the courses they provide. If there are schools you are interested in on the list but not the courses, you can speak to the schools about getting those courses registered with ELCAS – which is what I did for both UWE and Wiltshire College & University Centre.

What questions would you recommend other UKAF Service leavers and veterans ask the uni before applying to make sure it's the right place for them?

My questions were mostly based around if I was able to use my ELC for funding, reasonable adjustments for my disability, if classes were face-to-face (I prefer this) and  where I could get help with my studies if I had difficulties. 

Did you receive any support from your uni to help with your application, transition to university, your studies or onward career as a result of being a UKAF Service leaver?

The staff are approachable and friendly and always available to give advice. The careers offices at the school helped and supported enabled me in completing my UCAS application. Currently, at UWE. we receive advice about making your CV more attractive, job searching and placements for our chosen career path.

Did you face any challenges when applying to university, or with your studies? Do you have any advice for others who may experiencing similar challenges? 

The timeframe for my application – I decided to apply two months before completing my course at Wiltshire College & University Centre as I found out late they weren’t starting an HND course, so then it was a rush to register on UCAS and get my application done before the deadline.

Then, because of when my application was sent, I had to liaise with the university myself, sending my transcript to enable me to start on the second year instead of the first year of my course, to avoid extra cost/debt and repeating a year I had just completed.

I also had personal and health issues, and contemplated giving up, but I had a lovely chat with a staff member in the library and decided to stick around until my first assignment got turned in – this was the best decision I made. I had imposter syndrome, but with a good support system you can get through that.

How did you prepare for the transition to university – and do you have any advice for others who may be planning to start their course later this year?

It can be fast-paced, so you need to be organised to ensure sufficient time is allocated for assignments or study. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarifications and as soon as an issue arises that may affect you work let your lecturers or personal academic tutor know.

Do you have any additional insight into applying as a mature student as well as being a Service leaver? Are there any other personal circumstances you needed to take into account when making your decisions ?

The ELC is a lifesaver in avoiding extra debt. Try to apply with plenty of time to cover all bases. Use the resources available to you to help make your application or transition easier, like the career’s office, and get advice and help from the staff in the library. Assistance is available to help with childcare, with the Childcare Grant. Other grants or bursaries are available, but it can be based on the university, your circumstances, gender or subject of study.

What have you particularly enjoyed about your experience of studying in higher education? Do you have any tips for other UKAF Service leavers and veterans on getting the most out of their experience?

Making new friends and the interesting topics I've learnt. I have conquered my fear of going to university and feeling that I wouldn’t fit in, but there are plenty of mature students studying part-time and full-time. I've also met people from all over the world.

Is there anything else you think others would find useful to know?

Do your research and some soul-searching if you're considering a change in career and don’t let those ELC go to waste, even if it is a small course or a way to top up or improve on your current skills.

What are your future plans, and how will higher education help you to get there?

I am hoping to get on a summer or year placement for my third year, and then complete my fourth year and hopefully finding a job within the industry. I would love to work with a company that is environmentally friendly/conscientious.