Debbee Forster, part-time MSc Human Resource Management
Why did you choose a course at Masters level?
"One reason is that I wanted to stand out from the many other people who have a BA or BSc level degree; a Masters level adds more weight to a CV.
"Also my employer was keen for me to take on the highest qualification that was feasible. One of their values is 'aim higher' and they encourage striving for improvement. A Masters is that bit more demanding and it stretches personal growth.
What does it take to get on to a Masters course?
"The University interviews each person to see if they have the potential to succeed at Masters level. They looked at my record in my career so far - I was 38 years old at the time - and they decided that I would be able to benefit from the course. I don't have any A-levels or passes at O-level. I left school at 16.
How demanding is a Masters course?
"It requires perseverance over three years if you're doing the part-time route like me, or one year if you're full time. My colleagues at InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) have been a great encouragement, sending me cards when I ticked off modules and being ready to discuss ideas with me. I also had a huge amount of understanding and support from my partner and parents. Although the course is demanding in some ways it's also really interesting and relevant to my day job.
What about course fees?
"My employer has paid my fees because they see it as a good investment. IHG wants to promote people from within the company and they see a postgraduate course as a good way for managers to develop themselves. As well as paying fees they've also given me study leave and been flexible when I've had lots of study deadlines.
How will a masters qualification affect your career?
"When I started the course I was working in an HR generalist role as part of a small team supporting nineteen IHG hotels. During the course I moved into a training consultancy role which focused on two of the seven brands within the IHG family on a two year contract.
"Recently a promotion opportunity came up that would involve working across all seven brands with lots of international travel throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. To be considered, applicants needed to have at least a first degree, if not a Masters.
"If I hadn't been enrolled on the course at Sunderland I wouldn't even have been considered. But as it was, I was able to put in an application, and be successful. So my career has already taken a major step up. It simply couldn't have happened if I hadn't taken the plunge and dived into part-time postgraduate study."