Engineering, design and technology - student stories
Steve Rowell, Engineer
Why did you decide to study with the OU?
Someone at my work had suggested I study with the OU. I’d left school at 16, became an apprentice engineer and achieved an HNC, but wanted to keep bettering myself. The firm wouldn’t allow day release for me to go to a local university but when I signed up for the OU they part-funded my first year.
I remember my first package of OU materials coming through. It included assignment forms, specimen exam papers and most daunting of all a whole year’s worth of course books! It was quite scary, but I soon got into it and in subsequent years the first thing I did was look for the study calendar and mark all the exams and assignment due dates on it. That’s one thing the OU teaches everyone – organisation!
What did you study at the OU?
I started by taking subjects I knew something about, which gave me confidence, but as I progressed I found myself focusing as much on studying Environment as Engineering. I got my BSc (Hons) Technology in 2001 and last year got my MSc in Manufacturing: Management and Technology (nine years after starting with the OU) – partly through interest but partly because of the way the job market is now. People following me up the ladder were getting degrees so I was always keen to stay a step ahead. That’s why I’m now trying for chartered status with the Institute of Mechanical Engineering – something I’d never have been able to attempt if I hadn’t studied with the OU.
How has your employer responded to your studies?
Employers respect an OU degree. They know you’re a self-starter, you have time management skills, you’re dedicated and motivated. My studies have brought me promotions and without the OU I wouldn’t have had a chance to be in the position I’m in now.
What advice do you have for others thinking about OU study?
I’d advise that before you start, discuss in-depth with OU advisers exactly what you want to get out of the experience. They’re really helpful in putting you on the right path.
It’s addictive but you also have to know that it’s extremely stressful at times. I’ve been married six years and have two young children and because of the time study takes, my wife has joked a couple of times that she’ll divorce me! It does put pressure on the family, so you have to have their support and I’ve had fantastic backing from mine.
And there’s one final piece of advice to anyone starting an OU course. Do what I did: Enjoy it! Most of all on graduation you realise your achievement and similarly that you’re not alone, there’s lots of us out there. It also miraculously makes those October exam blues seem a distant past!