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I AM BCU Conor Matthews

Conor Matthews

Property Development and Planning - BSc (Hons)

Conor worked for his local council for four years, which developed his passion for a career in property development and planning. After having a prolonged break from education, Conor worried that he would find the commitment to his course difficult to maintain.

“I began my university journey later than most. After completing my A levels and working for a local council for the last four years, my interest for a career in planning grew and I decided to begin my course in BSc (Hons) Property Development and Planning at Birmingham City University.

Being a mature student, I was nervous about stepping foot back into education. Completing a university degree requires a serious commitment and I was worried that I would not be able to keep up with the requirements of the course. But when I started my course, I was pleasantly surprised!

My lecturers have supported me throughout my time at BCU. They are always willing to discuss any issues that I have and provide feedback when I am working on a project. They also keep a keen interest in industry events and always ensure we are kept up to date with new research papers, interesting conferences and any change in legislation which  affects our field of work.

A career in planning can involve numerous instances of working with a group of people and my course has taught me how to successfully work in a team. Many of my assignments have included working in small groups, which has developed my skills in communication, critical thinking, leadership and incentivises collaboration. Combined with this, my lecturers have also provided me with skills to tackle projects or developments and analyse them more critically, enabling me to grow in confidence when approaching projects.

This course in particular has been very helpful in boosting my career prospects. It is RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) accredited which many employers in the planning industry say is desirable or in some cases even essential.

During the summer of my first year, I decided to take on some work experience. I was concerned that most companies were unlikely to have opportunities of paid work experience. However, the BCU Careers+ team ran a micro placement scheme in Summer 2019 which ran for four weeks. It provided some funding for travel expenses as well as providing a small wage. The main benefit I gained from this programme was that I was able to get some fantastic work experience and make some connections for possible future employment opportunities whilst being paid.

Everyone I worked with at my placement was very kind and helpful, and I was able to make a real difference and help out with some important work, such as writing a planning policy response for the town’s proposed new bus station and also complete my first planning application.

It was important for me to become involved with other elements of University life other than my course. The BCU Sports department were very helpful; I was interested in playing football and squash to keep fit and they introduced me to the BCU Active Wellbeing Scheme which allows students to play sports non-competitively. 

Completing a summer placement has not only been helpful for my CV but I been offered the opportunity to take on part time work after I complete my course. Without the funding from the university I would have been unable to complete any work experience, so I am very grateful that there are funding opportunities in place for students.

My time at BCU has encouraged me to explore new career options, I have become more independent. I come from a rural area in Hertfordshire and moving to such a fast paced and busy city was a huge change but it means there are lots of places to explore. Boredom isn’t an option!   

I hope to study a master’s degree in Planning to further enhance my career prospects and help me become a chartered member of the RTPI. I then hope to begin a career in the public sector. My placement at Stevenage Borough Council has allowed me to gain valuable experience for my CV and enabled me to learn industry standard skills in preparation for my future career.

To me ‘I AM BCU’ represents a strong and diverse student community who all encourage each other to achieve their goals, whilst enjoying the university experience. As well as exploring the city of Birmingham and all it has to offer.”