MSc Innovation Management and Technology Policy
Ben originally chose to study at Birkbeck, because he was working full-time and wanted somewhere to study in the evenings. Not only did Birkbeck offer this, but it was also known to most of the management in his company and had an excellent reputation. It made for a great choice:
'I'd been a fairly hardcore student right through school and sixth form college and had my eyes on a university position from quite an early age. When I got there though, my chosen subject, chemistry, just wasn't right for me. Added to educational burn-out, I think this was why I left university after one year.
'But I've always been keen on learning, and it wasn't long before I felt I was up to the challenge again. I looked for something to study that wasn't quite as specific as chemistry, and settled upon a management degree at Birkbeck, which turned out to be an excellent choice.
'The mode of study was well suited to me, as I could fit it around working. Indeed, after completing my BA Management, within just a few months, I was itching to get back to studying. So I returned to Birkbeck to study for my master's degree, as I knew that I wouldn't be disappointed.'
With interests in more than one field, Ben had a hard time deciding which course to do:
'Originally I couldn't decide whether to choose the MSc Innovation Management or Environmental Management, as I was equally interested in both subjects. In the end, I chose the MSc Innovation Management, because I preferred the core modules, but I also knew I'd be able to choose the optional modules. That's how I ended up studying environmental subjects in my second year.'
Ben clearly enjoyed his studies at Birkbeck:
'There are no averages at Birkbeck. The standard of the teaching ranges from good to outstanding, and every lecturer I have studied under has brought something new to teaching for me. Also, different formats have been used to enhance the learning experience, and I think on the whole that even the newest techniques to me have been of great benefit.'
But it has been a challenging undertaking:
'Generally, I managed to maintain a reasonable work/life balance; it's just important to understand that the balance is never going to be as easy as it was before you started studying.
'If I'm totally honest, it's been a bit strained at times, but that's more down to my own reticence to just get on with studying at the end of a hard week. The reading is manageable (I use my train journey to work to keep up with each week's texts), so that's one area where studying and working integrate very well.
'The coursework for each subject isn't too much outside of my ability to cope, as after four years as a part-time undergraduate at Birkbeck, I've become better at the time management of essays. My dissertation has been a bit of a marathon though, but I think that is mostly because of all the additional things I've become involved in. In the autumn term I was an undergraduate tutor for Quantitative methods 1, and in the spring term I became involved with the Green Economics Institute. I don't regret doing any of these things, though, as the extra effort has its rewards.'
Luckily, Ben had a lot of support in undertaking part-time study:
'As luck would have it, my partner started his part-time master's at the same time I did, studying on day release at a different university. So that has worked out quite well for us, as we both just have to stick our heads down and get on with our studying.
'My previous employer paid for my first year of studies, and then my family helped out with the second year. Even if that support hadn't been there, I would have found some way to finance the degree as it is so important to me. I don't think that a single penny of it has been wasted, as it has paid for a high-quality degree from an excellent institution.'
Ben found other benefits to studying at Birkbeck:
'I think that the greatest benefit of working and studying at the same time is the skills and fresh ideas that you bring straight into your place of work. I changed companies at the end of 2007, and what I've learnt at Birkbeck has been invaluable to a wide range of business opportunities for the company.
'I have met some very interesting people throughout my time at Birkbeck. The variety of experience that is brought to a class of mature students is astounding, and finding people's opinions not just on the subjects they're studying but also about current affairs is great. I still keep in touch with some of the people I've studied with.
'The course has changed me a lot I think. I used to think that I was quite an environmentally aware person, but my second year taught me that I'd barely touched the surface. The great thing was that the courses I studied helped push well past that barrier, and I think I am now much more aware of the impacts that growth, development and technology have upon the world, and what needs to be done to resolve this.
'My partner and one of my work colleagues would probably joke that all the studying makes me sound like I've swallowed a dictionary. Joking aside though, I know I can talk about what I've learnt and how it relates to the world in which we live and work in an authoritative manner, and I think I'm still getting over the fact that some would even consider me to have expertise in my preferred subjects!'
Ben certainly isn't planning to stop now:
'As it's turned out, continuing to study part-time is not what my future has in store, as I have been awarded a full-time PhD studentship at Cass Business School researching 'The "uncertain middle": the role of demonstration projects and trials in influencing success in sustainable innovation, considering the case of renewable energy technologies.' I'm sad to leave Birkbeck as a student after so long, but I won't be leaving completely, as I will be holding on to my teaching duties which I really enjoy.
'I will also be continuing my work with the Green Economics Institute, promoting an action agenda for energy in a green economy. I see green economics as the foundation upon which we should build a modern sustainable and equitable world and am grateful that all I have learnt in my time at Birkbeck can help to shape that future.'
And Ben's advice for others how are considering studying?
'Quite simply, go for it. You will not be disappointed.'