Alumnus celebrates four decades at BCU


BCU Alumnus Ivan Wincup completed degrees at both Birmingham Polytechnic and the University of Central England, as well as BCU.

The graduate recently attended our Graduate Homecoming event, part of BCU Alumni Festival 2023.

Held at our City Centre campus, the event celebrated 180 years of BCU. Graduates from Birmingham Polytechnic, University of Central England and BCU, as well as our associated and predecessor institutions, came back to the place where it all started for them, to have a tour of campus, look at the first BCU Alumni Exhibition, and enjoy catching up with classmates.

BCU’s rich history can be traced back to 1843, when the Birmingham Society of Artists opened the Birmingham Government School of Design. Five individual colleges were then brought together to make the City of Birmingham Polytechnic in 1971, and in 1992, we gained university status, becoming the University of Central England. In 2007, we became Birmingham City University.

Ivan first attended Birmingham Polytechnic in the early 1980s, where he gained a variety of engineering qualifications with the Faculty of Engineering and Science in Perry Barr, finishing with a HNC in Engineering.

He said: I was always interested in making or building things, something that my father encouraged. So, when it came time to leave full-time education, I expressed an interested in joining the boat building industry to my careers advisor, who dissuaded me and instead encouraged me to become an engineering apprentice.

“As I was finishing up my apprenticeship, the government announced the plans to build a nuclear power plant in Sizewell. I worked on this project for a couple of years, before moving to Birmingham to work within one of the contractors’ sites, producing parts for the petrochemical and nuclear power plant industries.

“I’d began to realise a degree would help me progress in my career, and I was encouraged to attend Birmingham Polytechnic to increase my knowledge of metallurgic and testing techniques. After my studies, I took up the role of a Project Engineer, travelling around the UK visiting car manufacturing plants and aerospace companies, later expanding across Europe and even to the USA, marketing the piece of monitoring equipment that came out of our research project.”

During the 1990s, Ivan returned to Perry Barr to study at the University of Central England, completing a HNC in Business and Finance and immediately going on to complete a BA In Business Studies.

In 2003, Ivan returned to UCE, this time at Millennium Point, which is now part of our City Centre campus, to study a BTEC in Information and Communication Technology.

As Ivan’s career was evolving, he then returned to Perry Barr to complete a PGCE, a PGDip in Education, and finally an MA in Education.

He said: “I decided to return to Perry Barr as a mature student, completing a BTEC HNC in Business and Finance to progress onto the Business Studies degree. After completing my BA in Business Studies, I started a company with one of my oldest friends, building and selling computers, and installing network systems. We expanded our business when a university friend needed software engineers at the security company they were working for, employing engineers on a contract basis who would be working within the security company.

“I later began management of an ethnic minority outreach program with the Birmingham Diocese, which involved managing the funding stream, organising English language classes and liaising with Job Centre Plus (JCP) in getting an influx of Kurdish refugees into their system.

“This led me to want to increase my knowledge of education and training management, so I started an MA course at UCE again still at Perry Barr. I used the things I was learning at UCE to improve the delivery and support I was giving to JCP and their learning providers. I completed my MA in 2007 with a dissertation on the Barriers to learning for the long term unemployed.”

Ivan’s education continued in 2011, when he returned to what was now BCU, , completing a PGCE in Higher Education, a Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. His thesis, ‘Skilling Them Softly’, was an analysis of long-term unemployed adult learners who were enhancing their employability skills through a programme of study.

He said: “I had started to instigate several initiatives to improve training and retention rates for learning providers and with the support of the Learning and Skills Council, we introduced an initiative called the Employability Skills Program to learning providers across the West Midlands. I had an idea for a research project linked to the programme and again, with support from the program lead, I was encouraged to take my education to the next level.

“I approached my MA tutor with a proposal for a study at PhD level, and I put my proposal before the UCE education research committee, and it was accepted. I took advantage as a PhD student to complete a PGCE teaching qualification in higher education, and I even became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I also became a visiting lecturer and supervised a small number of MA students undertaking their dissertations. After graduating, I worked as a Visiting Lecturer for a while too.”

Ivan isn’t the only one in his family who has studied at BCU, with his daughter completing a degree in Fashion and Design at the University of Central England, and his son undertaking a Computing degree at Millennium Point too.

Nowadays, Ivan and his wife are both retired after years of hard work and raising their family.

He said: “We both now follow our hobbies; my wife enjoys portrait painting along with crochet work, while I build working models and do wood turning.

“We travel often, mostly in the UK, as my oldest daughter lives on the East Coast and my son in Brighton. But with two daughters and a son, plus five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Our lives are still busy and interesting!". 

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