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Orla Byrom

FdA Criminal Justice

Progression Pathway: De la Salle Catholic High School St Helens, level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma Public Services, St Helens College, FdA Criminal Justice

"As a student who took the vocational route at level 3 rather than studying for traditional A levels, a big fear of mine, when considering University, was that my academic skills may not be good enough for study at higher education level. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and I have surprised myself with my own knowledge and capabilities. Lecturers and fellow students do everything possible to ensure you stay on track and there is always one tutorial session per week, which provides the opportunity to meet with lecturers on a one to one basis, meaning there is never a reason to stress yourself out or panic. University Centre St Helens has taught me that no one should underestimate their own potential, degree level study is achievable if you work hard and are committed."


19-year-old professional Irish dancer, Orla, joined the FdA Criminal Justice degree upon successful completion of her level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Public Services with St Helens College, having heard great things about the progression opportunities for graduates from her level 3 tutor, Grant.

Living locally and with a busy lifestyle, juggling Irish dancing, running and university work, Orla made the decision to stay at home, preferring a short commute to university and a convenient location.

Now eight months into the first year of her two-year Foundation degree course, Orla is enjoying her time at University Centre St Helens, where she has found a close knit community and a friendly atmosphere. The smaller class sizes have allowed Orla to get to know other students on her course very well, quickly, which Orla credits with providing motivation to the whole class, as they all work well together and support each other with assignments.

With lessons typically beginning at 10am and finishing by 4pm, Orla is enjoying the variety of the degree course, commenting:

“I am really enjoying the variety of modules studied on the degree course. The topics are so diverse and the range of teaching styles we engage with really allow you to immerse yourself into every subject. Each module is different and unique in its own way and that is what makes the course so interesting, no two days at University Centre St Helens are the same. One subject area I am particularly enjoying is Criminal Law; a module I previously never imagined myself doing but there are so many different aspects and career possibilities available to focus on within this topic alone.”

Continuing, Orla added:

“I firmly believe that this degree is perfect for everyone as we engage with a range of different teaching styles on a daily basis. Certain modules contain more group work and work based learning games, whereas others provide an opportunity to work on an individual basis. This works well for me as I enjoy changes in study mode, so that lectures don’t become tedious and monotonous and I really value that lecturers ensure that all students are included in each session. The lecturing team on the Criminal Justice degree really are some of the most outstanding people I have ever had the privilege of being taught by. They all teach in their own unique way, to get the absolute best out of each student. Even though everyone is different, each member of staff pushes and encourages all of us to achieve our absolute best. I also really admire the lecturing team’s approach to learning, they take their roles very seriously whilst still being friendly and approachable. They are extremely easy to confide in if you’re having troubles outside of your degree and they have been very supportive of all of my out of university commitments and activities.”

Whilst on the university campus, Orla has access to a range of facilities, including multiple silent study areas and a great student lounge. An on-site Starbucks, is the perfect place to catch up with friends over a coffee, two libraries, a range of books, journals, Ipads and laptops, as well as access to a range of on-line materials from validating university, The University of Chester.

Commenting on her time at University Centre St Helens, Orla said:

“The main thing that has surprised me with the degree is that it is extremely easy to fit in with my lifestyle. As well as being a student I am also an Irish dancer and a runner, therefore I was always worried that I wouldn’t be able to juggle my time and achieve my potential on a degree course because of my other commitments. However, the course is well balanced and you are given all of the information you need to successfully complete assignments well in advance of the deadline. At the beginning of the year, we were given deadline dates for all of our assignments as well as the dates of our exams. This has helped me to balance my time and work load well, making it much easier to juggle work with my other commitments. The timetable also works really well for me too, as I benefit from having two full days off, providing ample time to do my research, reading and written work. Upon graduating, I would love to apply for a position with Merseyside Police. Having previously been a cadet and enjoyed my experience, I am looking forward to learning more and expanding my career even further. A role within the Police would also allow me to put the theory that I am learning in my Criminal Law module into practice. If a position with the Police is not possible, I would like to progress into the Prison Service, working in a role that allows me to face daily challenges but providing me with the potential to motivate and inspire an individual to change their life for the better.

Speaking about her considerations before enrolling on her degree, Orla said:

“As a student who took the vocational route at level 3 rather than studying for traditional A levels, a big fear of mine, when considering University, was that my academic skills may not be good enough for study at higher education level. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and I have surprised myself with my own knowledge and capabilities. Lecturers and fellow students do everything possible to ensure you stay on track and there is always one tutorial session per week, which provides the opportunity to meet with lecturers on a one to one basis, meaning there is never a reason to stress yourself out or panic. University Centre St Helens has taught me that no one should underestimate their own potential, degree level study is achievable if you work hard and are committed.”