#degreeonyourdoorstep: face-to-face teaching in a pandemic

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“When we talk about entering higher education, the language we use on island is often going to university” Gail Corrin, the Higher Education Manager of University College Isle of Man (UCM), tells me. It’s a phrase that she wants us to challenge: that obtaining a degree means having to leave the island.

For many of us Manxies, uni feels like a rite of passage. You move to a new city, go out clubbing on weekdays, meet endless other spotty freshers, and, uh, also get a degree. ‘Rona has complicated that a bit. Many students heading to the mainland this year face online learning, social distancing, and, perhaps worse of all, no night clubs. It is a very different experience.

There is, however, opportunity to study on the Isle of Man. With a lack of ‘rona on island, UCM will be business as usual: face-to-face teaching will take place- and you can still go to the OB, if that’s what you’re into. UCM also offers a significant amount of support- from careers advisors, students services staff and student welfare officers, all of which, assuming the Manx situation remains the same, will be available in person. UCM acknowledges that students have a range of different backgrounds and needs, and are happy to support each individual’s needs.  Having adapted to online teaching during lockdown, UCM is also ready to quickly move back- should it be necessary.

Starting a degree on the Isle of Man might be daunting: for some, three years on island might not be exactly ideal. Trying to ~find yourself~ while living in your parent’s box room isn’t exactly the experience we were hoped and promised when we watched Fresh Meat. But starting a degree here doesn’t mean you have to stay here. UCM offer opportunities to study off island. Excitingly, you can also transfer your degree over to Chester at anytime, or alternatively apply to transfer to a similar course at a different university. If you find yourself wanting to move to UCM having studied at a different university, UCM are keen to hear from you.’

UCM may not provide a typical “student experience” with thousands of strange societies, but there’s good reason. The university’s mantra “the island is your campus” really reflects the experience at UCM. Much of the role of societies at uni is to socialise and meet new friends: many people who choose to study at UCM will already have established friendships. They don’t need to join a uni football league: they can carry on at their current club. Friendships are, however, commonplace on course. People all across the island and from different backgrounds find themselves united in small but varied cohorts (approximately 75% of students are 18-21) making for interesting and stimulating classroom conversations.

At the moment, UCM doesn’t offer a huge array of degrees, but they have plans to expand in the near future . However, as Gail acknowledges, “what [UCM does], we do well”. The statistics are impressive: 87% of students gain a top grade (1st or 2:1), compared to a 76% of students in the UK. All graduates of the nursing course last year gained a first. UCM builds the environment in which students can really excel. The learning environments are small (each course has approximately a 15 person cohort). At the very most, some business modules, that are mandatory in multiple degrees, will have classes of around 30 people. That’s a big difference from lecture halls full of hundreds of people. This allows for a large amount of support from expert industry lecturers. In the first year of a course, students can expect 13-14 hours of contact time per week, in addition to having their own personal academic tutor (PTA). This is impressive, compared to the nine hours contact time that is commonplace in similar courses in the UK, and no doubt even fewer this year.

If the amount of contact hours makes you think that you will be getting bang for your buck, here’s some even better news: if you are eligible the tuition fees are covered 100% by DESC Student Awards- meaning no £2500 contribution per year.. They are flexible, as courses are available both full and part-time. This means that you don’t need to pay to uproot your life, move homes, and be in debt. With 91% of UCM students gaining graduate level employment upon or before graduation, there’s a good chance you’ll be a baller by the end of your degree.

Applications for higher study are still being accepted at UCM. If you are interested, you are encouraged to get in touch with UCM by calling 648200, emailing at mail@ucm.ac.im. You can find a full list of courses at ucm.ac.im