Trisha Tunstall was the manager of a hairdressing salon, working full-time, when she chose to start an online course leading to a Foundation degree in Hairdressing and Salon Management. She had achieved NVQ Level 3 in Hairdressing and BTEC Level 4 in Business Management. She also has a City and Guilds teaching qualification.
It is not a requirement for hairdressers to study at degree level. So why did she choose to do the Foundation degree? "Hairdressing is my only passion", she says, and she wanted to develop her interest in her work at a higher level, to reflect on her practice and keep her skills and knowledge of the industry updated. She is now a full-time lecturer in the Department of Hairdressing at South Staffordshire College.
At the time the Foundation degree, awarded by the University of Derby, was very new. Trisha heard about the online course from her local college, who recommended that she contact the course leader at Derby University to find out more. The e-learning course is still running but has changed since Trisha registered for her first module. It now has two pathways – management and technical/creative, but Trisha did the full range of modules, funding herself module by module.
Trisha was employed full-time and this was practical, but a big commitment, requiring self-discipline and highly developed study skills. She carried out most of the assignments in her own time, but was able to link some of them, particularly those involving research using questionnaires, with her work in the salon. Tutor support was delivered by email and telephone and assessment was also online except for some face-to face assessment of the technical modules. The university has a distance learning library.
All of the modules were relevant to her development as a hairdresser and as a manager, some very technical and requiring a photographic record as well as a more academic analysis to demonstrate progress and skill development.
What difference will the Foundation degree make to Trisha's career?
She has already made the move from working in a salon to teaching in further education and can see that both her higher level skill development and her enthusiasm for learning more will enhance her long-term prospects in teaching and training.
She is already on the writing team to develop a Foundation degree course at the college and is helping to prepare students who want to enter higher education. She may eventually set up her own training school.
Apart from this, what have been the benefits for Trisha?
A new and more creative look at hairdressing skills, a range of business and management skills, the development of research skills; and the enormous satisfaction of studying at a higher level. She is now studying for the BA (Hons) Hairdressing and Salon Management (Online), also offered by the University of Derby.
Was there anything she wished she had known beforehand?
At the time, because the course was so new, she was given insufficient information to decide that the course would be interesting and relevant and would fit with her employment at the salon.