Foundation Centre going on a Learning Roadshow

Our Durham Foundation Centre is unique as it welcomes students from different backgrounds. A lot of our students are mature students who are coming back to education. If you are coming back to academia to learn more about the subject or to gain new qualifications, the Foundation centre is there to help and provide all necessary support along the way. In order to publicise the opportunities available through the Foundation Centre, we have organised a series of Family Learning Roadshows, a programme of free, interactive and inter-generational learning activities, showcasing a range of academic disciplines on offer at Durham University. Run by Durham University Foundation Centre students and staff, the events are hosted in local primary schools, museums, libraries, and other cultural spaces across Durham.

The aim of the programme is to raise aspirations for primary school children and their families. Parents of primary school age children are among those mature learners who are most likely to consider re-entering education; therefore, this is an excellent opportunity for the Foundation Centre to identify and support people from the local area who might like to consider studying for a degree. Evidence also suggests that in order to raise educational aspirations of children, secondary school is probably too late: the seeds of Higher Education need to be planted in primary school in order to cement behaviours likely to allow successful progression. Family Learning activities like the Roadshow have already demonstrated an impact in changing perceptions about HE, both for parents as well as children.


We have recruited more than 20 current/ former Foundation Centre students, many of whom are student parents themselves and also represent the diverse nature of our student group. The Roadies have all been trained to deliver the stalls in an afternoon session (usually in a school hall or similar), with parents invited to attend as they collect their children. Foundation Centre staff will be available to support the activities and answer questions, and anyone interested can speak to admission tutors or sign up for one of our monthly Taster Sessions if they want to find out more about what is on offer.

Already twelve local primary schools have signed up for events in 2017. This year’s theme is ‘The Moonstone’, with an emphasis on linking sciences with other academic disciplines. Parents will work with their children to solve a the mystery of a well-known Victorian jewellery heist by looking at clues, for example eliminating a suspect by identifying powders or smells. A variety of exciting activities are on offer to engage a wide range of ages, and might include dressing up in Victorian costumes, role play, decorating a Victorian mansion, or making moonstones.

We will get back with an update and photographs from the events. Follow this journey with us.




Meet the staff : Julie Wilson

It’s this exciting time of the year again, when the Foundation team is getting ready to meet new students and guide them through the first year of their academic journey.

For the student this time can also be a bit stressful and confusing. To ease your way into the Foundation family we present a ‘Meet the staff’ blog series that allows you to get to know our staff before you even get here. This week we introduce to you Julie Wilson , who will be helping some of you develop your Academic Skills.


How long have you been a part of Foundation Centre and what do you do here?

I’ve been part of the team for six years now.  I currently teach Academic Practice, and I work closely with our Business students on their Research Project.  I also run some drop-in writing development sessions to support our Queen’s Campus students.  In previous years I have also taught English Literature.

What are your areas of interest in your subject?

Having studied linguistics, I have a real love of language and how we use it.  I am particularly interested in the general development of EAP (English for Academic Purposes); I can get quite excited about new trends and research within this field, as this can really help to support our students in their academic careers.

What are you scared of?

Students finding my module dull and boring… and I work hard to push the positive aspects of developing their academic skills so that they can see the light!

What are your guilty pleasures?

Overusing Sky+ – I just love the way I can manage my viewing and not be limited by TV schedules – but I always seem to have less than 10% availability left, so I’m clearly not very good at the actual watching of programmes!

What is your favorite place on campus?

Outside the café at Queen’s Campus, sitting on the terrace in the sunshine with a coffee and watching the world go by…

What kind of student were you?

Extremely conscientious.  I used to revise my essays again and again until the very last moment in my desire to do my absolute best and not submit until it was ‘perfect’… until my lecturer asked me if the few marks I might gain were worth all the extra hours of redrafting.  A memorable lesson in prioritizing and managing my word load.

What advice would you give to your new students coming this year?

Embrace this whole new experience with enthusiasm and an open mind.  You do need to work hard, but be aware of all the support and advice and help that is available – and make sure you allow time for fun too!


If there are any other questions you want to ask our staff members, let us know in the comments.

Kelly Holness – Applied Psychology student and a Mum

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Kelly, I’m 37 years old and I have a 15 year old son called Matthew. I have just finished the second year of a psychology degree after starting in the Foundation Centre in 2013.

Why have you decided to come to Durham?

I decided to go back to uni in 2013, prior to that I was managing a nightclub. I’ve always worked in the bar industry and thoroughly enjoyed it. However working til 3/4am was starting to take its toll, so decided it was time to retrain. Psychology is something that I’ve always had an interest in so was the obvious choice for me.  Durham University was really the only option for me as traveling further afield was not suitable due to family commitments.


Friends from the Biology of the Environment class

How difficult is it to combine work, family and uni? How does it feel to be a mature student?

I found it quite difficult to combine uni with family life, but making friends with people in the same situation was a great source of support. I found it quite easy to make friends and  found most people to be friendly and helpful. I have not found being a mature student to be a barrier to communicating with others. I am quite pleased to be a mature student and I think if I had done it when I was younger I would not have been so focused and probably spent too much time in the pub!

What can you tell us about socialising as a mature student?

I did do a little socializing with the mature student society on their regular Friday night get together in the student union in Durham. It was a good opportunity to get to know other mature students in similar circumstances to myself.

I did not really have the time to get involved with college life, however during some difficult personal circumstances in the first year of my degree I received a great deal of help and support from my college.



Ebsworth Building at Queens campus. Home for Foundation and Applied Psychology Department

How did Foundation Centre help you to prepare for your degree?

The Foundation Centre was incredibly helpful to me. Prior to returning to uni I had been out of education for 16 years and it was a huge learning curve. The support and guidance from the Foundation Centre really helped to relieve some of the stress of returning to education after all of that time. They taught skills such as essay writing, time management and critical thinking. Without the foundation year I feel I would really have struggled in the first year of my degree. Instead I had made friends and established a support network which helped me feel more confident.

What would you advise to people who are thinking to apply for Durham University Foundation?

I would recommend the Foundation Centre to anyone. My advice would be to make the most of it, don’t be afraid to ask questions, all of the staff are more than happy to answer any questions no matter how stupid you may think they are. It is a fantastic place to learn new skills and meet new people before embarking on the first year of your degree.

Veronika Tomilina: Finance foundation student and cheerleader

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Veronika Tomilina and I am 19 years old.  I am from Riga, Latvia.  I like studying, dancing, photography, reading and trying different crafts. Literally everything  🙂

Why did you choose to come to the UK to study?

I did not want to study in Latvia, because I think that education in the UK grants a chance for a better career opportunities. I was considering different universities from different countries such as Russia or Norway, but my final decision was UK because of Durham University.

Why did you choose Durham University?

Durham has a really good reputation and it is the only top university that accepts applicant from Latvia straight after school. Foundation year is the only gateway into getting onto a Durham University degree, so I didn’t mind doing an extra year.


Veronika (right) with a friend at one of the John Snow formal dinners

How did your Foundation year go?

My Foundation year was good. I just got my results so I can honestly say it went well and I got a first (1st). I learned a lot and I think all the skills and knowledge that I have gained here will help me in years to come.

What college are you in? Are you involved in college life?

I am in John Snow college.  I feel like I was involved but could have done more. I really like the collegiate system, but I think that all colleges in Durham vary in activities.


Veronika at a freshers week event


Are you a member of any societies or sports?

I am member of finance society, Women in Business, and  Durham University’s cheerleading team, called Durham Divas. I would like to be more involved with the Finance society, but because I go to cheerleading practice 3 times in a week I simply do not have the time.

Why did you choose cheerleading?

I wanted to do dancing, because it is one of my  favorite hobbies, and before Durham I had been dancing for 13 years. There wasn’t a dancing club that would suit my level and also I wanted to try something new, so I decided to choose cheerleading.

What is the most memorable thing about your first year in Durham?

I think the most memorable was freshers week, especially matriculation day. It was a first step towards something new in my life, new people, new prospects, new friends. Another thing which I really enjoyed was being in Durham cheerleading team. It was a completely  new sport for me and I really like it now! I met many new friends and had a very good time participating in competitions. Moreover, during the Easter holiday we went to Disneyland and took part in competition there, were we took the 1st place!! These two things made my 1st year amazing!


Divas in Disney

What can you advise to other people coming to Durham and taking Foundation year.

Just enjoy your first year, but do not forget to get all the knowledge out of your teachers because it will be very useful in the future.  Students come to university to get knowledge and the skills so that they can get a really good job after, but if students are drinking and partying every day and doing nothing there is a really small probability that they will get 1st or 2.1 in the end.  It is very important to understand what you are doing and why!


Veronika and her flatmates on Matriculation day

Revision tips from the Foundation Centre staff and students

Revision, revision, revision….

So many things to do to get ready for exams. But what is the best way to revise? Where to start?Here are helpful tips that we collected from staff and student to help you do the your best in your exams.

First of all, eat right!

Revision period for many equals junk food season as you have no time to spend preparing your meals. It should not be that way. There are a number of foods that will keep your body and mind healthy and also help you to remember better. Bananas, apples, blackberries, sweet potatoes all those things you loved since you were a kid actually have super powers to energize your brain. So instead of ordering Dominoes, go pick up some fruit and veg.


Rachel Dunn thinks that revision mode starts with your plate. Researchers discovered that student who have proper breakfast on the day of their exams perform better. What is a proper breakfast you ask? Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of porridge oats for your carbohydrates, and egg, milk or yogurt for protein. Also no breakfast can be complete without coffee or juice; that is just something we know you want so enjoy.

Some of you might have already read the stress avoidance advice by the Durham Marketing student , but we will repeat few of her tips here just in case you missed it. Make schedule of your own revision. It always helps to write down what you have to learn. When you do write it all down, do not panic! It might seem like a lot but if you just take it step by step, taking breaks in between (very important to do that!) you will see that it is all doable.

Now we told you where to start, here is how you revise.

Once you have made a list of what you have to do you, take a look at the past exam papers. That is what a lot of our former students, including Jess Roche, Alex Harrison-Wood and Lee Simpson, advise to do. You can find them on duo, on library tab.


Ok, so now you know what you need to learn, and how you will be asked to display your knowledge. That is what these people who were talking at you all year want, they want you to remember what they said, understand it and be able to explain it all yourself. Usually your lecturer will tell you if they want you to use their examples or come up with your own.If they haven’t done yet, don’t hesitate to ask.

Now when you have opened the books, notes and power point presentations you need to know good ways of learning.Here is what our staff and student have come up with.

Steve Leech says that it is important to taking breaks from your revision. You can go for a walk or a run between your study sessions. That will help your brain to work better.

It’s also helps to speak out loud. You are more likely to remember things if you have talked it over out loud. Former student Lee Simpson suggests that getting a study group together and teach each other if good way to revise. You can also try to teach your pet, toy or a poster, if you don’t want to look weird talking to yourself. Talking during a walk is a good idea, just don’t be too loud when you are walking through crowded areas. People might be interested in finding out what happened to Hamlet or Pavlov’s dog and they may start following you.

Reward yourself for a job well done. If you have completed your task, have a snack, treat yourself to chocolate.

If your exams are essay based you can write down your plans or draw them in diagrams before you write them. If you have the plan you already know what you going to do.

If you are typing your notes, research suggests that times new roman is easier to read and remember. Foundation former student Jess Roche says that colour coding your notes also makes it easier to learn the material. She also mentioned that putting up dates and facts on posters helps memorising them.

Watch educational youtube videos to help understand tricky concepts.

Flashcards can be useful when you are studying, especially because you can turn to them on the go.

Check out more advice here

Alison McManus advice is to remember not to stress and take deep breaths. So sleep well, breathe and keep calm otherwise you will forget what you need to write and even if you actually know it.

So here it all is. Remember your teachers, friends and colleges are there to support you.

Good luck! Though you don’t need it, you will be great.

Foundation Centre visits Nigeria

Foundation Centre teachers Nick Pearce  and Julie Wilson recently visited Nigeria to learn more about the educational environment there and try and encourage more Nigerian students to come to us.

They visited a number of schools in Abuja and Lagos and met with staff and students. The foundation centre offers an opportunity for Nigerian students to get into Durham with the WAEC which is not considered equivalent to ‘A’ levels or IBs.


Wining and dining in Ikuyi club


Nick and Julie met with Rose from Nubi education and her husband George in the Ikuyi club which dates from 1938. They had the opportunity to try goat pepper soup, which was apparently ‘very spicy’.


Both Nick and Julie enjoyed visiting the country and met lots of great people. They enjoyed sampling the food and the culture. Lagos is certainly a very different city to Durham!

Meet the staff : Steve Leech

We are continuing with our ‘Meet the staff’ blogs to give new students a chance to meet Foundation Centre staff and for our current students to learn something new about their teachers. Please meet Steve Leech :


How long have you been a part of Foundation Centre and what do you do here?

I was first part of the foundation centre in 1998, when I studied here. I then joined as a staff member about 10 years ago. I teach Social Science subjects, like Anthropology and Sociology, but mostly Academic Practice – the things you need to know and do to survive in Higher Education. I am also the head of our admissions team and it’s my job to make sure we get the right students on the courses we run.

What are your areas of interest in your subject?

My Anthropological research was about social sleep , how mums, dads, and babies sleep together. More recently my interests are in social mobility within education and widening participation amongst under-represented groups in HE

What are you scared of?

Anything that creeps or crawls – or has teeth. I don’t like wasps especially, and do the ‘wasp dance’ whenever one comes near me.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Beer (real beer), cheese, crusty bread.

What is your favorite place on campus?

I don’t know. I’d never really thought about it.

What kind of student were you?

Really irritating I’m sure. Some of my working practices were not really very good – I used to need a certain amount of pressure before I would start writing, which meant I always left things to the last minute. Obviously I’m not like that now 😉

What would you advise to your new students coming this year?

I have loads of good advice, none of which anyone listens to. Perhaps the biggest is “Own your education” – we’re here to guide you, but you need to engage. We are not here to learn for you.


If there are any other questions you want to ask our staff members, let us know in the comments.