Stewart Kirkland
Access to Degree Studies
I’m just a regular Psychology student at Edinburgh Napier University. I attend classes, study in the library, exercise in the gym, partake in extra-curricular activities and enjoy socialising with my friends. The only difference is, I’m a bit older than my classmates.  I spent 13 years with the RAF, was a police officer for twenty years and also tried my hand at being retired!

 After two fulfilling careers I went back into the education system after a break of almost 40 years.   In 1980, after achieving my first qualification - English O Level via night school – I proceeded to enlist with the Royal Air Force at 18 years of age. For the next 13 years of my life, I served at multiple bases around the UK before spending seven years in Germany along with detachments in Sardinia and Sicily (Italy).   

After over a decade on the road, I decided to pursue a more stable career to be able to start a family. The skills that allowed me to become a Sergeant in the RAF allowed me to pursue a career in the Police Force, where I spent the next 20 years of my life.  It was during this time that I really became aware of the impact of psychology.  

During the August 2011 riots I was deployed to London and Leeds where psychology and crowd behaviour really got my attention.  I was interested in why people suddenly became criminalised and how I could become more involved in investigating this phenomenon. After retiring as a Police Inspector in 2017 I was made aware of the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). My application led to an information evening where I was able to ask questions and decided to enrol.  The information evening concluded with an English and Mathematics test.  Following my subsequent interview I enrolled on the August 2017 course at Forth Valley College, Falkirk campus.  It was during this year at college that I made many new friends with whom I still socialise.  

I was class rep at college and also took on the role of Mature Students Officer, an elected post that covered all three FVC campuses.  My SWAP experience provided me with many opportunities and this also led to my nomination for an SQA STAR award where I was runner up in the November 2018 event.  

During my SWAP course I sat various modules that were designed to meet university entrance standards.  These included psychology, sociology and mathematics.  Having achieved the necessary profile grades, in September 2018 I successfully enrolled on Edinburgh Napier Universitys Psychology degree.  My past experience had provided me a smooth transition into education and my military mindset took most of the stress out of my assessments.  

Out-with my studies, I have turned a lot of my attention to philanthropy work, volunteering for Choices For Lifean initiative in conjunction with Police Scotland and the Army. I am also a volunteer caseworker with veterans charity, SSAFA and even got involved with the 2018 Special Olympics at Stirling University supporting students with various disabilities in all aspects of the competition.  

I am the programme representative for his Psychology course and I also work part time for Napier as a Widening Participation Ambassador.  Additionally, I work part time as an Associate Trainer with “sparqs”, an organisation that provides class rep training throughout our Scottish universities and colleges.       

My success is all down to planning! Previous military experience has shown me that prior planning, prevents poor performance and this is a skill many others on the course are yet to realise. By maintaining a good degree of planning around my coursework this allows me free time where I can fulfil the role of programme representative on my course.   

My quest to share my life experiences and wisdom with others continues as I share my SWAP experiences with audiences at Forth Valley College and University of Edinburgh. I hope to continue to raise awareness of the privilege awarded to those in Scotland and encourage others to pursue the free education opportunities available to them because you are never too old to learn!    
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