Higher Education and the busy London Mum

Pauline Lamunu made the leap into an undergraduate degree three years ago and has never looked back. Now, she wants to encourage other mums to face their fears and do the same.

The prospect of starting an undergraduate degree while taking care of two young children was certainly daunting.  My biggest concern was being able to balance the dual role of mother and student. One thing I knew for certain was that if I was going to return to studying after so many years, I needed to make sure I could be successful in my degree while still giving my children the attention they deserve. After much searching, I found an undergraduate programme that was perfect for me. The following is the advice I would give to other mums thinking about going back to school.

Choosing an area of study

It is important that you devote considerable time and thought to choosing a subject that you are genuinely interested in as you are much more likely to be successful in your programme if you look forward to studying for your courses.  There are a lot of unique and interesting degree programmes being offered at a range of universities and higher education providers and you should be persistent in your research until you find a subject that really inspires you. One of the significant factors in my choice, Greenwich School of Management, was that they offered a BSc in Business Management and Information Technology, a degree that perfectly blended my areas of interest.

The cost of a degree

£9,000 annual tuition fees are now a reality for some UK students. However, what many do not realise is that an undergraduate degree does not have to cost £27,000. In addition to the student loans and scholarships available to mums wanting to return to studying, there is a great deal of variation in tuition fees.  If the expense of doing a degree is a concern for you, focus your research on universities that are in your price range and that allow for flexible payment schemes. I chose a two-year fast track degree programme, where courses run throughout the year, with much shorter holidays. This is often a less expensive option than a traditional three-year degree as you only pay for tuition for two years and can start working full-time sooner.

Employability

In addition to the enjoyment and stimulation that comes from studying something new and interesting, career advancement is often another important consideration when pursuing a degree. To increase your chances of finding a job quickly after graduation, look for a university that has a reputation for producing highly employable students. These universities will have an approachable career services staff, degrees that position you well to enter  your preferred industry and lecturers with lots of work experience in the area they are teaching. Some of the most useful information I have acquired throughout the course of my degree has been from lecturers speaking about their own personal experiences in the workplace.


A flexible schedule

As a mum, your schedule must offer flexibility, as you never know when you might need to stay home to take care of a sick child. Attending a university with versatile class schedules and administrative staff that are willing to work with you to meet your scheduling needs will ensure that you are able to stay on track to finish your degree. Last year I needed to take time off for a family emergency, and being able to work with the university’s support staff to catch up again with my programme has allowed me to be successful in my studies.

Location

When you have children, moving to a new city to attend university can be very challenging.  Finding a university close to home has enabled me to minimise the impact that my studying has had on my children.

While I was hesitant at first to go back to school, it has been a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. I feel that I am now in a better position to help my children with homework and to support my family financially. In addition, I am proud to be a role model for my children to pursue education. Through my experience in higher education I have become passionate about encouraging other women to pursue further education and have even established my own charity, ACHIMO Family Club, which aims to empower mums to inspire their children to become future leaders.

Pauline Lamunu, a mum of two young children, is in her second year of a two-year fast track undergraduate degree programme in Business Management and Information Technology at Greenwich School of Management. Her charity, ACHIMO Family Club, which aims to empower mums in London and Africa to pursue higher education and inspire their children to become future leaders, became a registered charity in 2008.

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