BCU: It’s in the family

For many of our students, they are the first one in their family to go to university. But in some exceptional circumstances, they are actually following in the footsteps of their parents, siblings, cousins and more.

BCU has seen many changes over the years; different names, multiple logos, and several locations.

But whether they studied at Perry Barr or Parkside, Edgbaston or Gosta Green, many of our students and graduates have a very special bond to the university thanks to their family connections.

We caught up with six families who are proud to have BCU as part of their heritage.

Mum and Daughter: Claire Wilcox-Tolley and Aimee Wilcox

Mum and daughter Claire and Aimee both completed their studies at BCU. Claire trained as a Registered General Nurse from 1988-1991 at the United Midlands College of Nursing and Midwifery and then worked in a variety of clinical roles after qualifying.

But when she was working full time as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Colorectal Cancer and Stoma care in 2005, she decided to embark on her BSc in Clinical Nursing Studies, when BCU was known as the University of Central England.

She attended university one day a week whilst working full-time and being a mum to Aimee, so is particularly proud to have been awarded a first-class honours degree. Claire now works at BCU as an Operational Lead for Statutory and Mandatory training for the School of Nursing and Midwifery and is also a Senior Teaching Fellow.

She said: “I felt fully supported by my Pathway Leader, Tracy Cutler, who inspired me to return to BCU to complete several Level 7 post-graduate modules, which I then combined to complete a PGCert in Health and Social Care.

“It was during studying for one of these modules, that I saw my dream job advertised as a Lecturer, working within the Skills and Simulation Nursing team at BCU. I have now worked within the School of Nursing and Midwifery at BCU very happily for the last 9 years.”

Claire’s daughter, Aimee, has always been inspired by her mum thanks to her work ethic and how she combines work alongside being a supportive mum to both her and her brother. When the opportunity came for Aimee to study at BCU, she didn’t hesitate to go for it.

She said: “I studied Psychology at a different university, but when I was approached by the Teach First programme in 2019 to study at BCU, whilst completing full-time teaching placements, I did not hesitate to accept the offer to apply.

“Thanks to my mum, I saw how BCU fosters engagement and supports students and staff. Especially seeing how my mum helps her students too, I knew it was the right choice for me. I am now a qualified secondary school Science teacher.”

Alongside her job, Aimee is now also completing an MA in Leadership and Learning at BCU.

She said: “I felt so supported during first time at BCU, that I decided to come back to complete my Masters. My specialist interests are in educational research, and I also often conduct personal one to one science tutoring for several students in years 11 and 12 too.”

Father, Son, and Nephew: Keith Scobie-Youngs, Callum Scobie-Youngs and Peter Hyde

Keith Scobie-Youngs graduated with a degree in Horology in 1984, before going on to work as a Clockmaker in London. But after meeting his wife, Lynn, they decided to take a risk and set up their own business in the Lake District.

Keith is now Managing Director of Cumbria Clock Company, based in the small village of Dacre in the Lake District National Park. Most recently, the alumnus and his employees have been working on the restoration of Big Ben, the timepiece on Queen Elizabeth Tower in Westminster.

With clocks a big part of family life, it was only a matter of time until his love of the craft inspired his son and nephew to also follow in his footsteps. His nephew, Peter Hyde, graduated from the Horology course in 2002, and his son, Callum Scobie-Youngs, also completed the course in 2022.

Keith said: “It's lovely to see anyone go into Horology, but especially seeing family members get the same buzz that I do. My son Callum and my nephew Peter must have clearly saw my love and enjoyment for it, and they would have grown up with Horology around them all the time. I'm glad that I opened their eyes to a course like Horology and gave them an awareness of heritage crafts. Horology is the perfect combination of both engineering and arts, and it is still a very important trade.”

Callum and Peter now also both work for Keith at the Cumbria Clock Company too.

Keith said: “Callum and Peter both work for me now at the Cumbria Clock Company. It's nice to have family members in the team because there is that trust and understanding already there. As their father and uncle, it's wonderful to be able to employ them, as well as develop their horological skills.

“I'm in a unique position where I have seen two generations follow me in Horology. With heritage crafts and especially Horology in danger, its important and special for me to encourage the younger generations to embrace the same skills.

“In my day, there were just five people on the Horology course, and there were 18 when my son studied it. That just shows what a fantastic job the School of Jewellery are doing to develop these heritage craft skills for future generations.”

Dad and Daughter: Stewart and Victoria Wilson

Dad and daughter Stewart and Victoria found themselves in the unusual scenario of graduating on the same day and in the same ceremony at a BCU graduation earlier this year.

The dad and daughter both studied together at BCU, before completing their studies in 2021.

Stewart originally graduated with a BA (Hons) in Accounting from Birmingham City University, then known as University of Central England, over 20 years ago. But after working as an IT Consultant for many years, he got made redundant from his job in the Covid-19 lockdown.

After being made redundant, Stewart decided to try something totally new and was keen to have a change of career. He enrolled onto the PGCE course at BCU through a SCITT programme to become a maths teacher.

He said: “It was nice to be studying at the same time, especially when we were placed in schools, as we were both in the same boat and could support one another.”

His daughter, Victoria, chose to study at BCU after deciding to complete a PGDE through Teach First.

She said: “Me and my dad both finished our qualifications last summer. It was very strange to be graduating on the same day and very unexpected. But it made the day more special, and it was nice to share it with each other.”

Stewart is now working as a maths teacher at a local secondary school, and Victoria is working as a primary school teacher.

Brother and Sister: Simon Cauvain and Amy Homer

Simon Cauvain arrived at BCU in 2000 as a mature student to study Social Work after working at a local foundry and then for the Civil Service. After graduating, he progressed in his academic career, completing a PhD, and working as a Lecturer in Social Work. Nowadays, Simon is Head of Department of Social Work, Care and Community at Nottingham Trent University. His sister, Amy, came to BCU just a year after Simon graduated, and inspired by her brother and mum, also chose to study Social Work.

Simon said: “Growing up, my Mum was a Social Worker, and I’d always been interested in what she did. She would talk about Sociology, Psychology and Law too. I was hooked, but didn’t want to admit it, it seemed uncool to do the same thing as my Mum.

“Birmingham was a fantastic city to live and study in. I remember being really impressed with the university and the course had a good reputation too. I have lots of fond memories of my time at BCU, and the course was such an empowering experience, and the support that we had from our lecturers and other students was amazing and life changing.”

Amy, who graduated in 2007, was also unsure about her future when she was deciding on what to study at university.

She said: “I initially considered studying subjects like Art and Teaching. I knew I wanted to study at BCU, which was known as UCE at the time, because my older brother, Simon, had such a great time there on his Social Work course. So, I took a major U-turn, influenced by the profession both my mum and brother had chosen, and decided to study Social Work. I got on the course through clearing, and luckily for me this turned out to be the right decision.

“I studied alongside a diverse peer group where key issues, such as, white privilege and stereotypes were confronted head-on. The teaching staff had experience of different areas of social work and were passionate about teaching. The course challenged and pushed me outside my comfort zone and provided me with a great foundation from which to grow as a person.

“Nowadays, I am a Family Finding Social Worker, with Adoption@Heart Regional Adoption Agency. My role is to match children who have a plan of adoption with approved adoptive parents, preparing and supporting the transition. I feel lucky to be in a job that I love.”

Twin Sisters: Grace and Hannah Montgomery

As identical twins, Grace and Hannah have always shared a close bond, growing up with similar interests, being avid readers and enjoying writing, even having the same favourite subjects at school, so it was no surprise that the sisters decided to both study Media and Communication together at BCU.

Grace, who now works at BCU as a Staff and Student Communications Officer, said: “We picked BCU partly because of the locality; as Brummies, we wanted to go to a university close to home. The Media and Communications course appealed to us because it was so broad, and after visiting the campus for an Open Day we decided it was where we both wanted to study.

“University was an enjoyable experience; we studied hard, had some great work experience opportunities and we supported each other through the tough times, as well as making friends and memories.”

Hannah said: “The Media and Communication course appealed because it allowed me to do a bit of everything; journalism, television, PR, photography and more.

“Grace and I are super close, twin sisters and best friends, and we wanted to experience university life together. I think having her in close proximity was like a comfort blanket; being so used to her presence, it felt necessary to have her around. She is my support system, my confidante; so being able to call on her easily was important for me in navigating this journey. We did have separate classes though, which was good for our independence.

“I am currently an Editor at 44 Communications, an internal communications agency, working on different magazines and newspapers. My degree at BCU helped me realise my passion for journalism and put me that next step up on the career ladder.”

Grace and Hannah believe that studying together spurred them on throughout their time at BCU, thanks to their competitive streaks. The duo were awarded first-class degrees, making graduating together extra special with a double celebration.

Sisters: Aysha and Anna-Symone Bateman

Sisters Aysha and Anna-Symone Bateman also graduated together this summer from the faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences. The sisters have just a 15-month age gap, but they both began their studies at BCU in September 2018.

Aysha, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Business Management, chose to study at BCU to focus on her personal development. She said: “I chose to study at BCU due to the urban location, but also the personal development aspect which is built into the course. My favourite things about studying at BCU were the community feel and friendly staff.”

Anna-Symone, who graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, pursued a different route and wanted to choose something unlike other courses she had seen. She said: “The content on the course looked varied and interesting. I felt that by studying the combined course that BCU offered, I would gain knowledge in multiple disciplines that would better prepare me for the real world. My highlights from BCU include the support from academic staff and services.”

Although the sisters studied at BCU at the same time, they also enjoyed doing their own thing.

Aysha said: “We tried to travel to university together as much as possible, and we loved studying with each other as it just made the experience much more fun. Although we often volunteered and attended events together, we also enjoyed our own time and joined societies relevant to our own interests.”

The sisters were delighted to share their special graduation celebrations together. Anna-Symone said: “It was great to graduate on the same day, it was a fantastic finale to our educational journey.”

Aysha now works as a National Management Trainee in Housing, Property and Regeneration for the West Midlands Combined Authority, while Anna-Symone is exploring her avenues within the education sector and student support.

Do you also have a family connection with BCU, UCE or Birmingham Polytechnic? We would love to hear your story. Email us today: Alumni@bcu.ac.uk