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The University of Southampton
Sociology, Social Policy and CriminologyPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Alex Wilson BSc Criminology and Psychology, 2015

PC in the Met

Alex Wilson's Photo

When it came to selecting the course and university I wanted to study at for me personally it came down to several factors. The first was making sure I really wanted to study the subject and that it was something I could enjoy. You have to be honest with yourself and think that you are going to be spending three years of your life studying the subject and no matter how impressive it may be or the job prospects it will offer on graduation if you don’t enjoy it the chances of you graduating at all are slim.

I have been able to participate in curriculum innovation modules that bring together experts from all over the University to tackle some of the leading issues in the world today.

Choosing which University for me was a little more complex as I was living abroad when I had to decide. Of course league tables played and expected grades played a role in determining which universities I looked at and Southampton rates very highly in the UK however it’s important to consider these as more of a starting point rather than a definitive list of universities to choose from.

Other considerations for me included how easy was it for me to get home for work and to see family and friends, making sure the city had a range of good and easily accessible facilities and also if it was generally a nice place to live. With West Quay on the doorstep, a massive nightlife to explore, the New Forest 20 minutes away by bus and home only an hour away on the motorway it ticked all the boxes for me.

The University is a great place to study. I think that there is a great mix of space to learn and develop but support is there if you need it. Coming to university is all about learning how to cope with tasks by yourself and direct your own learning so freedom and independence are crucial to this process. That said we all need a little bit of help from time to time and the university is there to provide it should you ask. Personally I have taken advantage of course tutors holding extra sessions to help you through something you’re not understanding or preparing assignments.

In my final year the psychology department held 2 extra tutorials for non psychology students like me so that they would not feel disadvantaged when it came to assessments compared to psychology students. In addition to staff support there are plenty of resources in place for you to make the most out of your time here.

My favourite things about the course so far has been the ability to engage with some of the really gripping and gritty aspects of crime in the modern world. Modules such as violent and sexual offenders, penology and criminological psychology have allowed me to dive into the darkest recesses of criminality in an attempt to understand why murderers kill and robbers rob. It has also given me an appreciation for more underappreciated areas of offending like cyber crime which is an area fast becoming a critical issue to law enforcement.

Another aspect of the course that I have enjoyed has been the flexibility. At Southampton a big emphasis is placed upon complimenting your core degree discipline with the perspectives of other areas of knowledge. Primarily for me this has been in the field of psychology which forms the second half of my degree but I have also been able to participate in curriculum innovation modules that bring together experts from all over the University to tackle some of the leading issues in the world today. In my first year I participated in a module about online social networking that examined sites like facebook and twitter from a computer science, social and technological perspective to give a well rounded understanding of how they have become a central feature of modern life.

Finally I feel that the course and staff teaching it have made the content as current and up to date as possible utilising current affairs and recent research to teach information that is relevant to the world right now. It is really easy in academia to get bogged down in theory and you can feel like what you are learning is out of touch with the outside world but by keeping things contemporary and grounded in the real world the course itself I found steers clear of such problems.

At the University I have had the chance to try out loads of different things that I either wouldn’t have had the confidence to try at home on my own or simply wouldn’t have been able to afford. In the last two years I have gotten involved with the University first aid society, the boxing club, crossfit and even yoga all for around a tenner a week! Whilst some of these clubs have given me practical skills like when I qualified as a first aid practitioner with the first aid society others help to enhance more personal skills like self-discipline and commitment.

Personally I’m quite into fitness activities and it’s hard to say no to your friends sometimes when they want to spend the night out at a club and you have training in the morning or waking up pre 6am to get to the gym for a training session. However it’s more than rewarding when you can see the progression from one exercise to the next and be able to achieve the goals that you really want to achieve. This carries over into my academic work where the ability to stay focussed and determined is a massive ally in the fight against deadlines and an ever increasing workload.

Throughout my time at Southampton I have always tried to keep my eye out for any opportunity to make myself more employable because at the end of the day that was a big reason that I decided to come to university in the first place.

In social sciences we have a fantastic employability and careers advice service that organise and support work placements across the entire three years you are there. For me that meant in my second year being awarded a £1000 grant to go away over the summer and pursue being part of the metropolitan police special constabulary and be a police officer in London full time for 4 weeks. Not only did I have an extremely enjoyable experience I was able to gain valuable real world experience in the career that I intend to pursue after university which makes me far more attractive to any police force than the standard graduate.

Progressing on from that during my third year I was also lucky enough to be awarded and internship working with ACRO who are responsible for managing criminal records in the UK. This gave me a chance to get a ‘backstage’ view of policing and all the activities that support it whilst gaining further industrial experience and was all organised through the faculty careers service.

The employability department invest a lot of time reaching out to potential graduate employers and organising work placements both paid and voluntary to provide students with ample opportunities to get involved with something to enhance their employability prospects during their time studying.

With regards to my future career aspirations this experience has helped immensely. You need only look in the paper to see that employers want more than the standard degree nowadays and are always looking for people that have done something to show they can go above and beyond and at the most basic level getting work experience is a great way to show this. For me specifically I want to go and work for the police after graduation and so I have had the chance to gain direct experience in this career path. Being a special in the met opens the doors to easier and faster recruitment and also helps you network across the force so that you are aware of the latest developments and opportunities to exploit. Being able to work in that environment has affirmed my desire to become a police officer and has given serious added value in the eyes of prospective employers.

If I could give a new student some advice it would first and foremost be think about what you want from your time at uni and the go out there and get it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that only the best people can do this or you won’t be able to do that because there is the support and quality out there for you to achieve the best standards possible. I would also strongly advise you to stay open to new things and experiences and always try to exploit as many opportunities as possible.

Getting involved with things whether that be on your course, societies and clubs or the students union is a great way to broaden your horizons while educating yourself to a high calibre. Remember university isn’t just about getting a good degree it’s about developing a well rounded person that is competent and capable and able to take on a variety of challenges both in and out of the workplace.

Since graduating Alex was offered a position in the Metropolitan police at the Rank of PC and was also pursuing opportunities in the British Army

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