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Case Study

Vivienne Harding

South Shields, UK

BSc (Hons) Criminology

Working as a legal secretary for 22 years, Vivienne Harding had a good CV but wasn’t happy with where her career was going. She decided to retrain and go back into education, choosing to study for a BSc (Hons) Criminology degree at the University of Sunderland. Her career aims after graduation include studying for a master's, followed by working in either probation or with a charity.

I was a legal secretary for 22 years, working at various law firms around the country. Although I was working in some senior positions and had a very good CV, I wasn’t happy. I decided to take the leap and give up work to go back into education, first completing an Access to Higher Education course for a year at South Shields College, before coming to the University of Sunderland to study for the BSc (Hons) Criminology degree.

The modules are relevant and enjoyable, and there are several optional modules that cover a wide range of areas. My personal favourites were modules covering surveillance and youth justice. One of the modules I chose was the work experience module, which not only provided me with valuable experience within the work sector, but also an opportunity to network and build contacts. I went on a work placement and was able to attend a Clinks event – ‘Regional Criminal Justice Forum, North East’ – a forum for the third sector within the criminal justice field.

I started to volunteer for the ‘Reaching Out Project’ in Newcastle when I restarted my education, working as a mentor for offenders resettling into the community. I now work part-time as a supervising mentor with the project. In my second year, I was successful in obtaining a grant from the Futures Fund, which helped towards funding my trip to visit an inmate in Arizona’s death row. Without the Futures Fund I wouldn't have been able to undertake this incredible trip and experience the American justice system first-hand. I also volunteer with the Local Appropriate Adult Scheme through the University, attending interviews at police stations with detainees who are deemed vulnerable, to ensure they are treated fairly and have their rights respected. I have gained excellent experience and unique opportunities which I would have found difficult or impossible to obtain, had I not been studying at the University of Sunderland.

I would absolutely recommend the University to other students. The staff are friendly, helpful and so enthusiastic – you can really feel their passion for their subjects. If you’re thinking about going to university, my advice would be to research the course, talk to lecturers, talk to other students and attend open days. Get as much volunteering experience as you can whilst you complete your degree. University is what you put into it, so work hard and grab every opportunity. Put yourself out there because it really is worth it.

After graduation, I'm hoping to go on to study for a master's degree and then work in either probation or with a charity, helping offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community.

My degree has been hard work but very much worth it. My eyes have been opened to the world and I have pushed myself to experience everything.”

Published 4 May 2020

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