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Matthew Lake

Former Devon County Council employee Matthew Lake made the decision to return to education to help him further his career and provide access to different opportunities. 

Having completed an Apprenticeship several years ago, Matthew had also gained a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in engineering, but having been out of education for a number of years, he was told by some institutions that his qualification would no longer provide entry to a level 5 course. However, when Matt spoke to City College, he was pleased to hear his experience of working in highway engineering would be taken into consideration, and he enrolled onto the Foundation Degree in Civil Engineering in September 2018. The Foundation Degree provides students with specialist knowledge in a wide range of areas, from site surveying to structural analysis and design to geo-technics, fluid technology and coastal engineering.

Studying part-time has allowed Matthew the time to juggle his job with College, which is helping to pay for his tuition. Matthew said he has enjoyed his time at the College and believes being part of small groups allows you more one-to-one time with lecturers and support staff. 


He said: “Being in a small group of students means we get to know our lecturers well and they are able to really support us – we get far greater interaction with them than if we were sat in a large lecture theatre. We also have great resources online that are very useful when it comes to revision.”

Matthew, who commutes from Exeter, said he particularly likes that all of his lectures are on one day, significantly cutting the amount of time spent driving each week, and that the course has included sessions based at the nearby Oceansgate site.

He said: “This course has included visits to Oceansgate for a series of lectures on the different roles in construction, which have included spending time physically on the site. When I did my HNC, all we did was visit a site to watch some concrete slabs being laid: this is much better.”

These lectures were delivered in partnership with the Kier Group, which is keen to allow students access to a real worksite when their courses might not usually allow that. 

Matthew said he was also keen on the practical aspects of the course. He explained: “Quite recently we did a series of tests in the lab looking at the different soil samples in concrete, and we’ve done a lot of work on fluid tests. You might think that, by studying at a college rather than university, you wouldn’t have access to these types of facilities and experiences such as these, but you would be wrong.”

After completing the Foundation Degree, Matthew is considering progressing to the top-up year, which will result in him obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering.