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Phil Bushell

FdSc Applied Microbiology

Progression Pathway: Access to Higher Education Biological Sciences, FdSc Applied Microbiology

"Returning to education can be a daunting experience but if you find an environment where you are comfortable yet challenged, you will thrive. The small campus means classes are easy to locate and you become familiar with your surroundings very quickly. Labs are good and the smaller class sizes are advantageous in a subject where equipment and space is key, as you all have your own working area for the duration of your studies."


Adult student Phil made the decision to return to education in 2016, enrolling on the Access to Higher Education in Biological Sciences with St Helens College. A year later Phil had a choice, go to University elsewhere or stay in St Helens and study at University Centre St Helens. Despite receiving an offer from one of the most prestigious University’s in the country and a specialist in the field of Tropical Medicine, Phil decided to turn down that offer, in favour of pursuing his degree with University Centre St Helens. His reasoning was vast but a key influence was the ability to access the timetable at University Centre St Helens in advance of enrolling on the degree. This allowed Phil to see that the two-year degree programme was delivered over three days per week, rather than sporadically over five days, allowing him to continue working in a part-time capacity for the rest of the week, something that was vitally important to him. This, coupled with the fact that Phil already knew the majority of the lecturing team from his time on the Access to Higher Education course, meant that he successfully transitioned into a full-time student on the FdSc Applied Microbiology.

Now in his first year, Phil continues to be inspired by Programme Leader, Paul, who he describes as an “expert in his field, who cares passionately not only about his subject, but all of those in his class.”

Describing his time at University Centre St Helens to date, Phil said “It has been comfortable but challenging. At school, I always did well and was fine with exams but on the Foundation degree there are a lot of new assessment methods that I haven’t experienced before. We use research posters, new computer packages, a range of statistical analysis and peer to peer seminars. All are interesting but I particularly enjoy the peer to peer seminars, as they allow you to see the subject from the lecturer’s point of view too.”

Teaching on the FdSc Applied Microbiology is split between lectures and lab based sessions, with approximately 70% of the time being taught and the other 30% spent applying the learnt knowledge to practical scenarios in labs. This provides for a varied and diverse curriculum, allowing students to progress into a range of careers. Phil explained, “Previous alumni have progressed successfully into a range of paid employment roles from the degree, in a variety of environments, not just science. Microbiology opens up a vast range of career paths to you, you could go into Biotechnology, Medical Research, Bioterrorism, Ecology or Climate Conservation – the list is endless!”

Explaining how he is enjoying his time at University Centre St Helens, Phil continued “the small campus means classes are easy to locate and you become familiar with the campus very quickly. Labs are good and the smaller class sizes are advantageous in a subject where equipment and space is key, as you all have your own working space for the duration of your studies.”

In addition, Phil added “The lecturing team at University Centre St Helens are very good. Having experienced education elsewhere, what really strikes me is how approachable all of the staff are and how willing they are to help you out. Meeting the staff in advance of enrolling played a huge part in my decision to come to here and I am so glad that I did. My instincts were correct, and I am taught by a range of staff, who are all passionate about their subject specialisms.”

When asked how he would advise potential students, Phil said, “Consider what style of learning you like, how big you want your classes to be and come and meet the lecturers at one of the many open days held throughout the year. As a University Centre St Helens student, you will be spending a lot of time with those lecturers, so it is important that you build a good rapport. A lot of the bigger universities have lecturers who are predominantly interested in their own research and I found that came at the expense of the teaching element to undergraduate students. That’s definitely not the case here at University Centre St Helens, the lecturers have teaching as their primary concern and this benefits you massively as a student. It’s also a great environment for students who have to work or like to work part-time because of how the timetable is structured. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Foundation Degree in Applied Microbiology at University Centre St Helens to anyone who is looking for a challenging, practical degree that can lead you into a wide range of interesting and varied careers.”