Postgrad Lives: ‘You get so much support from the university’

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The Independent Online

Mark Cund, 39, is midway through a part-time MSc in automotive calibration and control at Birmingham City University.

How did you come to be doing this Masters?

For the past few years, I've worked as a contractor at Jaguar Land Rover, in the electrical section of the research department, designing, for example, technologies linked to braking systems. A few years ago, I did a modular degree in computing and electronics at Birmingham City University that I finished in 2008, and I'm now doing this Masters because I want to understand more of the theory and the maths behind what I am doing at work.

Have you always been interested in engineering?

I have always been geeky about how things work. But I'm also the sort of person who learns about things from the practical side first and then wants to understand the theory.

How is this course organised?

It's divided into four taught modules and a big project at the end. As an example of the course content, one of the modules is about anti-locking braking systems and how power gets to the wheels of a car. For each module I have two weeks of afternoon lectures at the university. Then I have a few weeks away doing an assignment in my own time. The four taught modules take about a year, and the big project up to another year.

What will your project be on?

It'll hopefully be on something that I'm doing at my work, perhaps on a car's cruise control, linked up to safety systems. The great thing about working where I do is that, when I do a project, I can go and actually put it on a vehicle and go and test it.

How do you fit the course round your job?

I start work very early every day anyway. I'm usually at work by seven, so I can get plenty of hours in before I go to the university for around one o'clock. I have a very good manager at work, who lets me do this. And because I'm a contractor, I only get paid for the hours I do.

Who else is doing the Masters?

There are four of us in the group. One guy from Bentley, one from JCB, me, and another from a much smaller company. We're a complete mix of people, all with different roles with the industry, and it's fun working together.

Is it hard work though?

Yes, it is, but it doesn't seem hard because it's absolutely enlightening and you get so much support from the university, so it isn't scary. The lecturer-student ratio is brilliant, and you can stop them at any time to ask a question.

How much is it costing?

The fees are £750 for each module, and the project counts as two modules. So that's £4,500 in total. But I got one module paid for by a grant from something called the Economic Challenge Investment Fund, which I got through the university. The rest I'm paying for out of my earnings from my job. But the expense will be worth its weight in gold because it'll hopefully allow me to do a PhD —and to do my job better and faster.

And after you finish?

The MSc should increase my chances of Jaguar Land Rover taking me on permanently, and, since it's accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, it should help secure my long-term career in the industry.

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