Laura Reid

Planning Built Environments - MA

After struggling to balance a demanding part-time job alongside her studies, Laura was finding it difficult to find time to focus on her university assignments. But when she was offered a job with the Students Union, they were flexible and understood that university was a priority, allowing Laura to complete her course.

“I was interested in human geography and wanted to pursue a career around this subject. I knew I wanted to help design future places where people would live and work. This led me to a profession in planning.

One of the main reasons why BCU stood out for me was the emphasis on learning through real-life, practical projects. The ‘Planning, Environment and Development’ course covered the development process, planning theory and the principles of good placemaking. Also, having the opportunity to work with other students from various Built Environment courses was a great way to get industry ready.

I decided to stay local when choosing a university but I was nervous that I would find it difficult to make friends and work with others. But after speaking to current students at an Open Day, I learnt it was common for students to commute and it was never a barrier for meeting new people or having the ‘university experience.’  

After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to do a postgraduate degree in ‘Planning, Built and Natural Environments’ (now MA Planning Built Environments) ,allowing me to start the process of becoming a chartered planner. Not only was the course accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), but it focused on practise-based learning, prepared me for challenges that occur in industry and had excellent links with Birmingham City Council. This provided many opportunities to work on real-life projects.

At the time of graduating from my undergraduate degree, student finance was not an option for postgraduate study as it is now. This was very disheartening, as I would not able to progress into my desired career without graduating from an accredited PG course. It was then, I found out that BCU offered post-graduate scholarships for students from under-represented backgrounds, at the time. I was awarded a scholarship which covered the cost of my tuition fees. Without this, I would not have been able to complete the course.

Continuing with a postgraduate course at BCU came with many benefits. I knew my way around the campus, I was familiar with the library and I had built good relationships with my lecturers. I was able to go to them for academic support and they also helped me to secure a work placement. Working at a planning consultancy for two days a week alongside my PG studies, allowed me to grow in confidence, learn industry skills and gain valuable work experience.

Although I was very grateful for the placement, I began feeling overwhelmed with trying to balance a part-time job alongside my studies. I worked on weekends and struggled to find time to focus on my university work. This became very stressful and drove me to quit my job. But this wasn’t an ideal situation to be in financially, this is when I got a job working at the Students Union. They understood that my priority was university and were really flexible with the shifts that they offered me. If needed, they allowed me to change my shifts so that I could dedicate my time to completing my work. This truly helped me to approach my work with a calmer and clearer mindset.

I am now a Chartered Planner! When I graduated, I started working at Birmingham City Council as a Graduate Officer. One year later, I secured a promotion to become a Senior Planning Officer and have been working in this role for the past four years. I process and determine a wide range of planning applications and have contributed to the delivery of homes and the economic growth of Birmingham.

My job requires me to work with different stakeholders and have good communication skills to discuss and negotiate proposed developments. My undergraduate and postgraduate degrees equipped me with the skills to analyse and critically appraise developments and I now draw on these skills to assess proposed developments. I was also recently awarded a commendation from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for the high quality of my Assessment of Professional Competence (ACP) submission.

One of the modules on my course was Professional Development. From this module, I learnt about the APC process and how to reflect on your professional development. This course helped me to succeed with my APC as reflecting on your professional development is a key aspect.

 The BCU community is so diverse, both the staff and students come from a range of backgrounds, which adds to the vibrancy of the university. Postgraduate study can be quite daunting, but at BCU I received a lot of support and I think this applies to everyone, whatever your circumstances may be.

To me, I AM BCU means being part of an open and welcome community where you can flourish, in both personal and academic life.”

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