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Case Study

I got a D in A-level Chemistry…I got a "First" in my Foundation Degree


Hear from Emmet Campbell, who completed the first two years of his FD Biological Sciences degree at Belfast Met, and then progressed directly into Year 2 of BSc Microbiology at Queen’s.

What was the course content like?
The content of the course covered a wide range of topics and areas while still maintaining a high degree of detail. This meant we had lots of options to progress into after the course, e.g. Microbiology, Zoology, or Marine Biology. Even though I entered the Foundation Degree straight after A-levels, the first semester consisted of modules that were great for bringing everyone up to the same level of understanding. My friend started the foundation degree after years of being out of school and I started straight after A-levels, and both of us are currently sitting on firsts in 3 out of 4 of our Level 2 modules.

As the modules progressed into higher levels of understanding, I found them to be both interesting and challenging.

How was the transition from School?
With the FD’s small classroom size, I got a feel for what would be expected of us and how we would be treated with a lot more freedom, but still having that close relationship to the lecturers where we felt comfortable to ask questions, answer out and go to them with any concerns, which I think was extremely important as a stepping stone between secondary and tertiary education.

The Foundation Degree had more taught hours than the BSc at Queen’s, but less than A-levels. Again this segued us well between education levels and allowed us to acclimatise to the balance of support and responsibility expected of us.

What was the class like and did you make friends?
The environment I was in for the FD was perfect. The small class size (16, but closer to 12 by the end of the degree) encouraged friendships between students which in turn made it easier to help each other both inside and outside of lectures/ labs. This was really beneficial as science is heavily cooperative work so it was a great skill for my future career.

What were the lecturers and teaching like?
Every lecturer involved in my Foundation Degree was brilliant. Lectures were given with enthusiasm and interest which was quite infectious and really helped with our learning. The practical classes were also extremely skill focused and I got very confident working in the labs. I went from having a Chemistry A-level teacher telling us every day not to become teachers, to lecturers not being able to contain themselves when people try to say sharks have bones (they’re cartilaginous, which I will now never forget). I got a D in A-level Chemistry… I got the equivalent of a first in my Foundation Degree.

Transition and preparation for BSc
The transition from Foundation Degree to Bachelor’s degree was seamless. The format of our assignments were similar in both courses e.g. with the first submission that involved a typical lab report format (Intro, Method, Results, Discussion, etc.), students that had entered at level 1 struggled as they had never encountered this, whereas we had been submitting 2, maybe 3 a week!

Report writing and everything that comes along with it (referencing, graphing, data analysis) was all drummed into us and I have had no struggles in this regard. Referencing especially is so important at this level and this was stressed to us in the FD.

What work experience did you gain as part of the course?
As a part of the FD, the summer internship was probably one of the most important aspects of the course. I took part in a 12 week internship with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, an ecology based internship. I joined the Microbiology pathway and this experience taught me how to work in a professional environment. Work experience, in any form, is extremely sought after.

I’m enrolled in the professional studies accreditation where I’ll be working for AbbVie over the next 15 months starting in June. I genuinely believe me having prior experience in the summer internship is what gave me the upper hand in securing the year long placement.

Why would you recommend the programme?
The Foundation Degree is an amazing program that prepares anyone that wants to progress further into higher education. Without this, I would never be where I am today. I struggled with A-levels and when I began to realise I wasn’t going to achieve the grades I needed to get into Queen’s, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Given the chance I would do it all over again rather than repeat my A-levels. I would like to thank everyone involved in this course for everything it has provided for me and I hope more people take advantage of this degree.

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