Andrea Ritchie standing outside of Curzon

Andrea Ritchie

Criminology BA (Hons), Security Studies (MA)

As a single parent, the prospect of juggling university with quality family time felt daunting for Andrea, but she decided to take the plunge and go out of her comfort zone to immerse herself in the world of Criminology. Though in a career she loved, she wanted to push herself further, for herself and her family. After completing an undergraduate degree, she has now found her path, aiming to pursue a PhD study in the field.  

“Around five years ago, I decided I wanted to return to education. Coming to university was such a scary thing for me, and a big leap of faith that could have easily not worked out. Initially, I studied at college to complete an Access to Higher Education course in social sciences alongside working. The pandemic hit, but I didn’t let this deter me from goal of continuing within education. When I attended the open day at BCU, I liked the feel of the university, and it suited my situation of being close to home to get back easily for my children. 

Being a single parent is a challenge, and thinking about how I would manage studying at university whilst making sure I spend quality time with my family was hard. Knowing that I could financially support my children was a large factor, but after discussion together and a lot of soul-searching, I decided to go for it. I had to deal with criticism about not being good enough and putting myself first over my children: this was extremely difficult to work through. Feeling like an imposter and doubting you are good enough after being out of education for so long meant I really did not know about a lot of things that other students seemed to know, such as writing academically, using references and a bibliography.

Starting my course during the pandemic was strange but lecturers were always happy to talk – they made sure the lectures and workshops were fun and engaging during a difficult period. The lecturers give you a lot of support and time when you need it, and I have used the mental health team previously when I’ve needed additional support. I am finding the balancing act of being a mum, a student and working a challenge. To overcome this, I aim to get in a routine which suits every aspect of my life and provides me with balance. 

As a mature student, it can be difficult to fit into a community where everyone, even some of the lecturers, are young enough to be your children. Sometimes, you just must go out of your comfort zone. 

I was a course representative on my Criminology undergraduate degree, and I have become a course rep again for my master’s in security studies. I’ve continued to get involved as a student ambassador and have applied for a widening participation ambassador role too. Working open days means I can be proud of being an ‘old’ student, showing other potential students that they will see others like them here. 

My journey to postgraduate study was not my original plan but has been a natural continuation after studying my Criminology degree. I enjoy being in a small cohort; everyone can get involved and I feel more included than ever before. Lecturers at postgraduate level are pleasant and patient, especially as some of us have not studied Security Studies in-depth like this before. Studying criminology has given me the confidence to realise that a future in lecturing and a PhD is for me. To be able to encourage others in the same way I have been encouraged is so important to me.

After working in pharmacy for 16 years, I knew I wanted a change. For me, this was studying Criminology. I’ve always been interested in crime shows, and true-life crime, like a lot of people. During my college course, I was interested in Psychology and Criminology. I doubted myself initially, but in the end, I got the grades to study both – but studying Criminology has worked out best for me. 

When I started studying my Criminology undergraduate degree, I was interested in rehabilitation and working with young offenders. This focus shifted towards graduating, where I became interested in intersectionality, racialised oppression and desistance.  In the end, this is what I based my dissertation on. I’m also interested in why people commit crimes, and what work can be done – especially for the younger generation – in the future. 

For my Master’s dissertation in Security Studies, I am hoping to focus on the issues of gender in the media’s portrayal of female terrorists, again looking through an intersectional lens. I plan on using primary research to explore visual imagery, and case studies such as The White Widow and the IRA.  As I work towards hopefully studying at PhD level, I hope to continue my research into portrayals of female criminals in the media: I think there is a lot more to delve into, not only in newspapers but across social media and film. A journey into PhD research will hopefully bring me closer to my end goal of lecturing.

I am a different Andrea to the one that joined BCU three years ago. I don’t even recognise that person in pictures anymore. BCU has given me more confidence in my abilities; I believe I am now where I belong. I never expected to change in so many ways, and I have shown anyone who doubted me that not only did I finish my undergraduate degree, but I smashed it. I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to anyone anymore, and now I’m a master’s student I’m so much happier, with the confidence to stand taller and prouder for myself for getting this far. 

You really can achieve things at any age, if you want it enough, and have the courage to change your path. To me, ‘I am BCU’ means that as a mature student, someone will read my story and feel like they belong, and like they can do anything they can. It has become my passion to shout about how proud I am to be a BCU student. I would say to anyone considering studying at BCU to go for it, you will absolutely love it. Challenge yourself and believe you can achieve it; it may be intense but with perseverance and effort, you will get there.”