Studying at Loughborough has been a really positive experience. I’ve learned a lot, and being able to apply things I learn on my course to real-world situations has made it much more tangible and helped me to see how it all works in practice.

Managing both the SEMAP (Systems Engineering Master's Apprenticeship Programme) and my job has been demanding, and I'll admit there were some really frustrating days when it all got too much, but when I look back at everything I’ve achieved and how much I’ve developed in that time, I’m really proud of it. I’ve also made some great friends on the course.

Tell us about your background. What have you been doing before starting the course?

I completed my BSc in Mechanical Systems Engineering in 2011 and gained IEng (Incorporated Engineer) status in 2019. Now I work as an engineer for the Ministry of Defence, and have covered a range of roles including air integration, field hospitals, and armoured and amphibious vehicles.

Working in such a variety of roles gave me a growing interest in systems engineering, and I wanted to progress towards CEng (Chartered Engineer) status. The SEMAP offered both a fully funded master’s degree, to gain the right level of further learning, and an apprenticeship which would help me to build and demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and experience against the required competencies.

How did you find starting the programme after time away from education?

I had about a nine-year gap from gaining my degree to starting the SEMAP. In between, I had done short courses for continued development and completed assessments for IEng, but in truth I had forgotten about the academic side of things. The first module was a bit of a jolt, particularly remembering how to write notes and manage coursework, but it didn’t take long to get back into the mindset. I hadn’t realised how much I enjoyed research until the final year project, so there may be a future there.


What did you particularly like about the programme?

The great thing about studying the SEMAP at Loughborough is that it’s not a purely defence-focused course; there are part-time students from different industries and companies, as well as full-time students on the regular Systems Engineering MSc programme, so you get a wide range of ideas, ages, experiences, and perspectives.

What skills have you learned on the course?

There are a lot of module choices, but I went for subjects that would directly help me in my job, and they’ve all helped me tackle everyday engineering problems. The final year project focused on a work-based scenario, and it helped me to research and unlock a significant problem within my current role. It’s nice to see that the work I’ve done on course has had a genuine impact.

Aside from the specific course topics, a big thing I’ve learned has been how I view systems and respond to problems. Both systems engineering and systems thinking are structured ways of appreciating the whole system including its context, boundaries, interactions, and environments. I’ve got a much greater awareness of these now, and it’s changed the way I think.

What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced?

Balancing time between the course, work, and a personal life! It’s nothing new; everyone has this problem, particularly those who have other commitments on top. It’s important that you can safeguard time for each of these aspects. My advice is to be strict about protecting the time you’re allocated for the course and apprenticeship work, and give yourself enough time to recover and refresh. It’s amazing how much time away from a desk can help clarify things.

What did you learn about yourself on the course?

I’m a lot more confident now than I was before. I nearly didn’t take the course because my low self-esteem made me think I wouldn’t be clever enough to learn at that level, but I’ve been really surprised at how much I’ve achieved and how much I’ve enjoyed learning. I’ve also been able to develop my interpersonal skills and move from being the quiet one in the corner to being comfortable leading a group activity or presenting my work to others. This has really helped at work when I need to justify a decision or lead others, and I’m a lot more comfortable speaking up in meetings. I’m grateful to the friends I’ve made on course for helping me grow.

What would you say to someone considering studying this apprenticeship at Loughborough?

I’d say that it’s a lot of work, but it’s a great opportunity. You will get so much out of the course, and it also helps to develop you as an individual. If you have the time and it’s something that interests you, go for it!

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