We are delighted to report a recent bumper 'crop' of graduates at the University of Reading. Artem Trufanov, Rebecca Hardy and Sarah McFarland all graduated with MSc Sustainable Food Quality for Health and Greg Rachon obtained a D Agrifood.
We recently interviewed Artem and Rebecca, who both highlight the commitment required to be successful in part time studies at this level and the rewards that can be gained both professionally and personally from undertaking this activity.
Part-time study through the AFTP has been designed so that professionals working in the agrifood sector can continue working while studying and carrying out research and undertaking high level, structured, continuing professional development. There are five specialist Master of Science programmes that allow individuals to focus on a particular area of interest. Here are some observations and experiences from our participants on one of these programmes.
Study duration and support from employers
Rebecca and Artem both felt supported by their employers during their course of study. Artem managed to complete his Master of Science degree in Food Quality for Health from the University of Reading in just four years thanks to the financial support provided by his employer.
Artem said, “They were so supportive. I didn’t have to worry about the financial aspects of studying, so I could fully concentrate on the actual work.”
But it wasn’t just the financial support that was crucial. Rebecca explains how life can get in the way of the best-laid plans.
She said, “Finishing the Master’s Degree took me a little longer than I had anticipated - just under five years! However, I have had four new job roles, lived in another country for a secondment, got married and had a baby. “During this time, my employer was supportive of me and my studies.”
Balancing work, study and home life
One of the most difficult aspects of studying at a postgraduate level part-time while working is the challenge of balancing work, study and home life. Rebecca describes how she divided up her time while taking care of her family.
“I managed it by doing the pre-work for every module two evenings after work. During the contact week, I focused and tried to get the most done that I could. I did the post-module work two evenings after work and during personal time at weekends. “I read content and watched lectures on the train into work.”
Plan, plan, plan
Artem and Rebecca agreed that planning was essential for managing their time and maintaining the focus needed for completing their degrees.
Artem said: “Full concentration isn’t always possible when you are working and studying at the same time. Good planning was a key component and I would recommend allocating more time for pre-study materials.
“The modules set up by the AFTP team were very useful and easy to understand. There was a great mix of online materials, plenty of interesting tests and quizzes and lots of very interesting lectures and discussions during “in campus week”.
Rebecca tried to use any ‘dead’ time, such as her daily commute to work. She also tried to keep the time spent working on the MSC focused, so that she felt she could still manage her work commitments and have a personal life.
Applying what you learn
Rebecca and Artem have already been able to apply their new knowledge to their working practices.
Rebecca said, “I did my final project on one of the biggest problems in my department, which resulted in supporting improved performance.”
Artem said, “My research project gave me important new skills and combined scientific rigour with valuable commercial outcomes. It also gave my employer plenty of information about the effects of low temperatures on tomato quality, especially flavour and texture, which is very useful.”
The best things about the part-time Master’s programmes
Asked to sum up the best things about studying for a Master’s degree through the AFTP, both graduates had very positive things to say.
Artem said, “This programme was one of the best things that has happened in my life. It definitely exceeded my aims and expectation. It’s a perfect option for people like me who want to study and work at the same time, for their professional development and their careers. “My studies have given me so much confidence and up-to-date knowledge and experience. The structure of the AFTP modules, using distance learning and contact time, worked well for me (and for my employer) and the independent learning that was a key part of the assignment work in each module required me to engage with academic work in a way that I had neglected for many years. “I brought all the knowledge gained from the modules back to the business and it is now used as part of day-to-day operations.
Rebecca said: “I’ve gained up-to-date scientific knowledge and the ability to think more broadly as an individual – and to challenge my thinking and understanding in specific areas. I can now communicate scientific content with more confidence to a variety of audiences. “I have enjoyed networking with others from the industry and having access to new research and insights. I have gained knowledge on how to link research to industry, which is very valuable. “I’ve also developed an awareness that my learning is ongoing and needs to continue throughout my career. I need to keep building on my specialism of Food Science in a cross-sector diverse and rapidly moving industry.”
Perhaps the last words should go to Artem: “I recommend the AFTP modules/courses to everyone who wants to make a huge difference in their career and for personal development. They increase your knowledge, experience and confidence for future challenges.”
AFTP Master’s Degree Programmes
Find out more about postgraduate qualifications available through the AFTP here .https://www.aftp.co.uk/our-postgraduate-programmes
Our qualification portfolio has been designed to offer the maximum amount of flexibility to industry professionals looking to develop their skills, through options such as distance and blended learning, and the capacity to ‘build’ degrees over time. We appreciate the busy professional and personal lives of those taking training with us, and have developed our programmes of study to work around your commitments at every stage.
AgriFood Training Partnership
The University of Reading
PO Box 226, Whiteknights
Reading RG6 6AP
T. +44 (0)330 333 4530