Steve Phair, from Edinburgh, is a BSc (Hons) Public Sociology student at QMU and is also planning to undertake the MSc Public Sociology at QMU.

How did you come to choose the course and why QMU?

"I decided on QMU because it offers something different to what is traditionally expected for a university. At QMU, you are not just a number. The University is very student focused - it’s not a one-size fits all approach – where possible, the staff will always try to accommodate your specific learning and development needs.

"I had been a youth worker for many years, initially as a volunteer and then latterly as a paid youth coordinator. By the age of 21, I had progressed as far as I could in youth work, based on my school qualifications. I was told that being a good youth worker and having experience of care-experienced kids, doesn’t necessarily mean you are management material. So I realised I needed to get a degree under my belt to progress my career.

"I came into QMU through an associate route where I studied my first year off-campus at Newbattle Abbey College (Midlothian) and then transferred directly into the second year of QMU’s joint programme in BSc (Hons) Psychology and Sociology. The associate route, via the college, made my transition into university life and study easier and less daunting.

"Initially, I had intended to do the joint degree. However, when I realised my passion was for public sociology, QMU allowed me to transfer from Psychology and Sociology onto the BSc (Hons) Public Sociology. Whilst studying in my first year at university, I was keen to get work experienced related to my degree programme. I took a job as a youth worker with ‘Who Cares Scotland’, which involved me in supporting young people with care experience."

Why do you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

"Edinburgh has been my hometown since I was a child and I could not imagine myself living and studying anywhere else."

Did you attend an Open Day? If so, was there any aspect of the University which made up your mind for you?

"I came to an open day before I had any news about my application. It was a good opportunity to meet the lecturers for the joint psychology and sociology course. Talking with the staff, and getting an insight to what they were like as people, and how they hold passion for what they are teaching, completely helped me make up my mind up about coming to QMU."

What was the most interesting part of the course?

"For me, Public Sociology is a very active course that offers constant opportunities for development. The wide range of subjects and approaches covered gives flexibility within assessment to pursue your own personal interests. This element of my course at QMU has been very important to me, as it allows me to study areas that I am passion about and therefore direct my career in a specific way. I already know that I’d like to work with care experienced young people, in some compacity - whether that be in policy development or another related area. The bottom line is that the BSc (Hons) Public Sociology is equipping me with a wide range of skills and knowledge that will give me the confidence to take on any community engagement role."

What additional opportunities have you been given at QMU to expand your understanding of your chosen field and enhance your skills and knowledge?

"I’ve had loads of opportunities for work and personal development as part of the university community.

"I won a Robertson Trust Scholarship, which allowed me to secure an internship with QMU’s Outreach and Community Engagement team. This role helped develop my understanding of widening access work in education. As someone who has spent many years in the care system, I was really pleased to work in this important area and create opportunities to help young people from different backgrounds to access new educational opportunities. During my time with the department, I did a lot of administrative work to support Queen Margaret Children’s University, which is an exciting learning initiative for 5 to 14 year olds. I developed strong partnership links with the Children’s University learning providers including tennis clubs, drama groups and Midlothian and East Lothian’s Active Schools’ initiatives. I also gave talks at career days in local primary schools to shed some light on university life. In addition, I helped organise a ‘dragon’s den’ styled event where Children’s University students pitched their ideas to a panel of experts including the QMU Principal and Santander Universities’ representatives.

"I enjoy getting involved in outreach projects and using my experience of the care system to make a difference to the lives of young people. So, it was a pleasure to take part in a variety of QMU’s summer school programmes, including ‘High Flyers’ (Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools) and ‘Kickstart’ (partnership between QMU, Napier, Edinburgh and SRUC universities). All of these programmes help to smooth the transition from school to university and encourage individuals to reach their potential."

Any advice for students who might be interested in the Public Sociology course?

"Public Sociology is a relatively new subject that isn’t studied in many places, so as I found when I applied, there wasn’t much information out there. The students and staff at QMU all share very high opinions of the course, and I would recommend Public Sociology especially to people who want to help make a positive change in society.  You should also take the opportunity to speak to staff or public sociology students at QMU and get course details from the University’s website. If you get the chance to go to QMU’s open days, you should take it."

Would you consider further study?

"I feel that through my undergraduate course I have still only scratched the surface of the potential of public sociology.

"As I was keen to progress studying in this area, I was delighted to be offered a place on the new MSc Public Sociology at QMU.

"Through my MSc I would like to build on the opportunities that have already been given to me through QMU and really situate these more within my own professional development and employment prospects for after university. My more recent focus in sociology has become the construction of policy within specific disadvantaged groups in society. Public Sociology has given me the tools to understand the potential change that can be made within these groups using policy and social research. Following MSc Public Sociology, I hope to continue studying for a PhD and eventually move into a senior policy making role somewhere that would give me the opportunity to make a difference in society."

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Psychology and Sociology

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