Michael Sargent Bursary Awards 2019-2020

The Bursary Award was established in memory of Michael Sargent who played a pivotal role in the development of OCNs and was also one of the longest serving OCN London moderators. Michael’s contributions to our work over the years were considerable and varied. He was a Trustee on our Board, a member of our Quality Committee, attended countless OCN London validation panels over a 25-year period and was an External Moderator for 15 years for programmes ranging from Basic Skills to Access to HE.  

This year the Bursary Award celebrates the achievements of Access to HE learners who have shown outstanding academic commitment to study, having excelled in their studies by producing work of consistently outstanding quality whilst on their Access course. Learners have faced considerable challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than ever, we would like to celebrate their achievements.  

The judging process has taken place and we are delighted to announce the winner and runner up of the Michael Sargent Bursary Award for 2019-2020 are:

Winner: Carin Calder-La Croix (Humanities and Social Science at City Lit)

Carin impressed her tutors from the beginning with her dedication and drive. Her tutor said “Carin has been an outstanding academic achiever from the very beginning of the course. She was always incredibly well-prepared with her questions and commentary during class, indicating a very sharp intellect and willingness to go above and beyond. She completed the year with 45 Distinctions, having achieved 27 Distinctions before March 19th 2020. Despite the situation with COVID-19, Carin continued to submit both essays and evidence of work that supported our view of her exceptional ability”.

Carin gave us an insight into her Access experience and explains how it has helped her prepare for studying Social Sciences at King’s College London. 

“I decided to do an Access course as it has always been a desire of mine to study at university and it is a better option then trying to take A-levels as an adult as it is more accessible and takes into consideration that there might be a gap in educational experience. I had my education disrupted by ill health, so once I was well enough, I set about gaining my GCSEs then pursuing an Access course.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Access course! Although I already knew when entering the course that I wanted to study sociology/social sciences, engaging with the subjects that I knew less about really enriched my experience and helped to develop the way that I approach my subject making my understanding of sociology interdisciplinary. All of the tutors were passionate about their subject, and I came away with even more appreciation and affection for sociology then I had before starting. 

The Access course was vital in my preparation for university. The techniques learnt through the study skills lessons such as development of analysis, notetaking, timekeeping and essay structure have all come into play at university. Considering the difficulties faced with studying during the pandemic, I think that the complications have been slightly abated by gaining those skills as it is allowing the academic work to be navigated with ease. Similarly, I value the discussions in lessons as it has helped me to approach academic discussions and inquiry with confidence that would not have developed otherwise”. 

Runner up: James Lawrence (Law at Barking and Dagenham College)

James’ tutors were impressed with his commitment and enthusiasm. His tutors said 

“James is an exceptionally diligent student with excellent potential. He has responded very intelligently, revealing his enthusiasm, and highlighting a genuine interest in all the modules. He writes coherently with an excellent use of language, syntax, grammar and punctuation…and can sustain a logical argument; demonstrating his ability to analyse and apply theory as well as introduce original ideas”.

James started his Politics and International Relations degree in September at the University of Exeter and he explains how the Access course has prepared him for study at HE.  

“My journey through further education was marred with setbacks, to say the least. After three consecutive, failed attempts at making my way through the first year of A-Levels, I had all but resigned myself to the idea that I would never be able to progress to university and pursue my goal of studying Politics. It took almost a year out of academia altogether and much of my time reflecting upon my experiences and researching alternative paths before I stumbled upon Access, almost completely by chance. I knew I had the capabilities to make it to higher education, but the ‘one size fits all’, mainstream route that was painted by my teachers at the time as the one and only option to succeed had failed me spectacularly, over and over again; it just wasn’t right for me or the way in which I learnt. I know I am not alone in this either.

After beginning an Access to Law Diploma at Barking & Dagenham College, I was still apprehensive, this now being my fourth attempt at a Level 3 qualification. I could not have been more surprised at how different the formation of the Access course was from anything I had experienced before. We covered a single module at a time, with my tutors providing fantastic support and guidance whenever it was needed. At the end of each module, we would be assessed on our knowledge, either through an essay, an exam, a leaflet or even a mock trial as with one of my units. There is no rote-learning for the purpose of regurgitation in an arbitrary exam, and this was frankly refreshing and far more constructive in terms of a learning experience than what I had experienced at a traditional sixth form college.

I can say, openly and honestly, that I enjoyed my course and everything about the way that it was structured. Meeting a small group of learners of completely different ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds was so rewarding and really united us in our common goal. Now into my second term studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter, I can attest to how well Access prepares you for the leap to higher education. Referencing, for example, was completely alien to most of my peers when they arrived but having covered it and used it extensively during my diploma, I was well-equipped to incorporate the skill into my work my straight away and this was a massive help.

I could not be prouder and more humbled to be recognised by OCN London for my work and would happily be an advocate for Access to HE moving forward through my degree. To anyone feeling like traditional routes just are not for them, or even, like me, that perhaps they just are not good enough to make it, I would simply say: do not give up. I cannot speak highly enough of Access and what it was able to do for me during a really challenging phase of my life. With hard work, perseverance, and dedication, it may just do the same for you”.

Are you feeling inspired? Do you think an Access to HE course could be for you? 

  • The Access to HE Diploma is designed for adults who have been out of education for a while and want to apply for university. 
  • It is well established and widely accepted by universities. 
  • OCN London has over 40 Diploma titles including subjects such as Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work, Business Studies, Design, Fashion Studies, Engineering and Science.  
  • Access to HE courses are closely linked to the intended progression routes and include study skills units which help prepare learners for studying in higher education.

Did you know that the Access to HE Diploma is the only qualification that offers the loan waiver?

  • If you complete your Access to HE course and then go onto complete a HE course, the Advanced Learner Loan for your Access course will be written off, meaning that your Access course is free!  

Find out more by visiting our Access to HE Learner page -  https://www.ocnlondon.org.uk/Access-to-HE/Access-Learners

Click here for more inspirational learner stories, including how one learner went from studying an Access to HE course to a gaining master’s degree in Global Health Policy! 


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