Working in the Oil & Gas sector as I have for the last 7 years is not without its challenges. Since the price of a barrel of Brent Crude crashed from over $120 to around $20 (back up to around $52 at the time of writing), over 120,000 people have lost their jobs. That equates to roughly one person every 10 minutes.
Due to the somewhat volatile nature of the industry, I decided that, having not gone to uni after school (the draw of earning a salary was too great for me) it would be prudent to go back to studying in order to get a recognised qualification. Just in case I happened to be one of the unlucky ones to be tapped on the shoulder by my line manager and HR, “can we have a chat please James…?”
The difficult decision was what to study? Due to having two young children (Abby, 8 and Max, 2) going back to being a fulltime student wasn’t an option; student loans aren’t meant for mortgages! Fortunately, a friend of mine pointed me towards the RGU website and told me to check out the distance learning degrees. I started researching it a bit more and after some deliberation, I settled on applying for a BA (Honours) degree in Business Management.
There were two reasons for this. Firstly, the depth and variety of the content of the course really interested me and secondly, at the time, I was considering moving away from Oil & Gas and into Financial Services instead. What I really didn’t expect was how much of the course I would be able to relate to my current job, and how quickly I would be able to put what I was learning into practice. Although, I think people at the office are probably getting tired of hearing me say, “did you know that…” coming out of my mouth!
Without doubt, one of the biggest surprises to me was how much I enjoyed the financial modules Management Accounting, Financial Accounting and Business Finance Decisions. My father is an accountant with his own firm (Meston Reid & Co…..shameless plug there) and I always used to joke that all he did all day was play solitaire. How wrong I was. I found the financial topics we’ve covered during 1st and 2nd year fascinating, I even started reading up on more advanced finance topics I was enjoying it so much! The other areas of the course such as Law, HR, Public Relations and others besides are all superb, in fact, I can’t really think of a single module I haven’t enjoyed.
The big advantage of the way this course is structured is the Saturday workshops. Previously, the course was taught in the evenings after work but that was changed a few years ago in favour of all day workshops on a Saturday. This is far better as everyone is fresh(ish) on a Saturday morning, most of us have managed to sober up sufficiently after Friday night. In any case, it is far easier to be motivated and take in what is being taught during an all-day session rather than here and there in the evening after work.
That said, if you are considering applying for the distance-learning course, be under no illusion how much time you will need to give over to studying. Around exam time and in the weeks leading up to coursework submission dates my life consists of; work, eat, put children to bed, study and repeat 7 days a week. The only exception is the weekend where I give myself the day off and study in the evenings. Even so, staying up working on reports, essays and revision until 1 or 2am and then being up with the kids at 7am the next day before going into work is not easy and takes a lot of self-motivation and discipline. Fortunately I have the support of my long-suffering girlfriend which is a big help, I don’t know how she’ll cope when I finish 4th year though as she’ll actually have to spend time with me again.
Some people find it easier to go into the office at 5 or 6am to get some studying done before their day starts, some do it at home in the evening and others use the RGU library; it’s whatever works for you. Even though it is tough at times, you never tire of the sense of self-satisfaction you get when you submit your work or complete your exam and then get your grade at the end. The materials such as PowerPoints, lecture notes, lecture presentations, quizzes and useful links are all posted re gularly for us to work through.
The level of effort the lecturers and course leaders go to in order to ensure that us distance learning students get the same level of attention as the full time students never ceases to amaze me. They are always there to reply to e-mails or posts on Moodle at any time of day or night and are all so approachable and helpful.
I’m still unsure what I might do with my degree after I complete fourth year. I do know I want to stay in the Oil & Gas industry, but I am hopeful this degree will help me work my way up to management levels within my company or further afield, you never know what the future may bring. What I do know for sure is I would recommend distance learning at RGU to anyone, in fact, I have done, and I will continue to. The campus is superb, the staff are friendly and helpful, the material is highly detailed but still easy to digest and the coffee is cheap, what’s not to love! I haven’t yet ventured into the gym for fear of my dad-bod being upstaged by the rugby players, rowers and other, younger, sportsmen and women but I hear that is also superb.
I would also add the final benefit, aside from the world class facilities and high quality teaching, is that here, in my late 20’s, I’m finally able to get student discount in shops and at the cinema. Now if that isn’t a reason to sign up this September I don’t know what is!
James A S Reid