Simon’s experience studying a Q-Step degree at Manchester Metropolitan University | Case study

By Nuffield Foundation

Q-Step student Simon talks about why he chose to study with the Q-Step Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Manchester Metropolitan University


Why did you opt for a Q-Step programme?

I believed that the Q-Step programme offered the best opportunities for me personally, such as developing skills that would help me work towards attaining a career in research. I felt that it was an opportunity well-suited to my strengths as a student.

What did you expect from Q-Step and in what ways, if any, did it differ in reality?

I was unsure what to expect from the Q-Step programme at first but one thing I was sure of was that it was going to be a challenge for me. What I didn’t expect, however, was the depth of support available from academic staff. As there was a Q-Step team who collectively supported students, I very much felt a part of a community. That helped, particularly during challenging times working with data or solving problems associated with my research. I believe I became a stronger student and person as a result of being part of this community.

I am very passionate about education constantly improving and meeting the needs of the world. Not only has Q-Step allowed me to pursue that passion, but it has also allowed me to build a career for myself in something I love to do.” Simon Massey, Q-Step student

What two or three things did you gain most from Q-Step?

The first thing is work experience. As part of my undergraduate dissertation, I worked in a placement with a partner organisation, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of the Probation Services. Here, I gained essential skills in the workplace, such as communication skills, time management, working in a professional environment, presentation and using other software for Quantitative Research.

The second most valuable thing I attained here was confidence. I jumped in at the deep end with little work experience at all, let alone research work experience. Working with an organisation like HMIP helped me prove to myself that not only could I do it, I could it well. This really helped with other university modules and to have the confidence to apply for a master’s degree – something I never imagined myself doing before entering the Q-Step programme.

Where did you go on placement?

My most recent placement was working with Citizens’ Advice Manchester as part of my master’s dissertation.

What two or three things did you learn or gain from your placement?

Time management. My placement involved both a dissertation and a condensed report, which both had to be managed and completed by a certain time. This was alongside my master’s degree and part-time job.

Another thing I gained from this placement was how to turn academic information into important organisation information. In order to help Citizens’ Advice Manchester gain further information from findings from my research, I had to learn how to communicate findings from an academic perspective into an organisational perspective. This included discussing the cost benefits of the organisation’s services and its value to the city of Manchester. This led to various impacts, from economic benefits of health services to the health-related benefits of service users.

How has/will your placement experience help you in future?

This placement provided me with additional confidence in my abilities, along with empathy in those who are relying on me to provide them with the information using the skills that I have attained. I felt very proud to have contributed to the work of such an organisation and learned that I want to use these skills in my future career.

What is your current and/or planned position and in what ways, if any, does your Q-Step experience help with what you are doing now?

I am currently doing my PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, focusing on an issue that contributes to Q-Steps aims; exploring the attitudes to maths of KS2 Pupils in UK Primary Schools. Everything about this PhD involves skills attained through the Q -Step programme, from creating relationships with schools to conducting research and from analysing the data collected to communicating those findings to a wider audience and demonstrating impact. I am very passionate about education constantly improving and meeting the needs of the world. Not only has Q-Step allowed me to pursue that passion, but it has also allowed me to build a career for myself in something I love to do.

What advice would you give a student considering Q-Step?

I would advise any student to consider Q-Step, as it provides essential employability skills in an ever-growing competitive market. I truly believe Q-Step provides essential skills for various careers and the fact that they can be attained through university is a huge bonus for students at those universities.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.