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Picture of our student, Laura

BA (Hons) Criminal Justice

Progression Pathway: Level 2 Teaching Assistant, Level 3 Youth Work Diploma, Access to HE Humanities (St Helens College), FdA Criminal Justice, BA (Hons) Criminal Justice (Top Up) (University Centre St Helens)

"Don’t expect anything less from the degree because it’s not in the usual big university setting. It is still a degree qualification and the level of work expected is still the same. It’s not an easy option, my degree course has been extremely challenging but massively rewarding. The level of teaching you receive, coupled with the support, is simply outstanding."


Criminal Justice student, Laura, is flying through the final year of her BA honours degree, as she prepares herself for the next chapter of her career.

The 30-year-old from St Helens, had dreams of becoming a teacher from a young age, but after leaving school changed her path and embarked upon a hairdressing career. Determined to pursue the role of her dreams, Laura decided to leave the hairdressing profession and enrolled upon a Teaching Assistant course with St Helens College, with the ultimate view of applying for jobs in local schools, upon completion of her course. Inspired by the teaching she received on her Teaching Assistant course and her passion for wanting to work with young people, Laura credits the course with providing her with the confidence needed to continue her studies. Having enjoyed her time at St Helens College and eager to learn more, Laura enrolled upon the level 3 Youth Work Diploma. With new found self confidence in her academic ability and enjoying her studies immensely, Laura had dreams of continuing her education to degree level, so enrolled onto the Access to Higher Education Diploma in Humanities and Teaching at St Helens College, where she gained both the skills and knowledge needed to successfully progress onto study at university.

Successfully completing the Access Diploma allowed Laura to secure her place at University Centre St Helens on the Criminal Justice foundation degree, before progressing onto the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice top-up degree.

As a single mother of two, Laura always knew that she wanted to go to university, not only for herself but to ensure financial stability for her children. Laura’s decision to study locally was influenced by the practicalities of University Centre St Helens, with the short distance, smaller class sizes and large amount of lecturer to student contact time being particularly appealing. After looking at alternative universities, Laura decided to stay local. Explaining, she said “After doing my research, it became apparent that University Centre St Helens was perfect for me. The Foundation degree in Criminal Justice was natural progression from my Access to Higher Education Diploma, which covered modules including Psychology and Sociology. The degree, couple with my volunteering youth work allowed me to marry together both my interests and experiences.”

Progressing successfully from the foundation degree to the final year BA (Hons) Criminal Justice top up degree, Laura is now studying a range of modules, which cover elements of criminal law, civil law, contract law and employment law, something which Laura particularly enjoys.

In addition to studying the full BA (Hons) Criminal Justice, Laura has grown her work experience, completing over 100 hours of work-based learning with city centre based Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), a charity that supports those who live on the streets and sex workers. Excelling as a volunteer, Laura successfully secured paid employment with the agency, where she worked for three years.

Embracing a range of local volunteering opportunities too, including work with St Helens based homeless charity the Hope Centre, and local armed forces charity Sam’s Veterans, who Laura was first introduced to during a guest lecture at University Centre St Helens, Laura has also juggled her time as a student with the responsibility of being the student representative for her cohort.

Commenting on her time at University Centre St Helens, Laura said: “I’ve definitely learnt a lot during my degree. Not only have I improved my academic skills but also my social skills. I’ve learnt a lot about my character, in that I’ve become more empathetic towards those in society who are the most excluded.”

After completing her degree, Laura is looking forward to progressing onto a PGDE qualification, which, if successfully achieved, will allow Laura to achieve her dream of becoming a fully qualified teacher in the post compulsory and further education sector. Preparing for her new adventure, Laura spent some time volunteering with St Helens College in her spare time, as a supervised lecturer, supporting level three students and gaining valuable teaching practice in the process. Inspired by her volunteer work and demonstrating the skills required to excel in the teaching profession, Laura has since successfully gained employment at the college, working in an Assistant Lecturer capacity. A dream that seems unachievable to Laura when she left school, due to a lack of self-belief and confidence, has now become her reality. Upon successful completion of the PGDE qualification, Laura’s ultimate goal is to one day teach adults in a prison environment.

To those considering study at University Centre St Helens, Laura advises: “Don’t expect anything less from the degree because it’s not in the usual big university setting. It is still a degree qualification and the level of work expected is still the same. It is still a degree qualification and the level of work expected is still the same. It’s not an easy option, my degree course has been extremely challenging but massively rewarding. The level of teaching you receive, coupled with the support, is simply outstanding.”