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The advantages of choosing a Harper postgraduate degree: Meet Sean Marsh

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5 June 2020

Sean Marsh is a Masters student from our REALM courses. He recently transferred to MProf in Rural Estate and Land Management after completing four modules as part of the PGC.

It has been a number of years since he ‘completed’ his education so Sean is the ideal candidate to share the challenges postgraduate students face, why Harper Adams University remains the best option, and how his postgrad education fits in with his day job. He said:

I never went to university when I was younger. I went from studying a National Diploma in Game and Wildlife Management at Sparsholt College, Hampshire, to getting a job as a Ghillie on a large Scottish estate. That was 16 years ago, so getting back into studying at MProf level has been a bit of an eye opener!

It has been a steep learning curve and very challenging trying to balance work, life and study. Two of my colleagues at work had both studied Rural Estate and Management at Harper Adams - one was a full-time undergraduate and the other had studied part-time postgrad - and both recommended Harper Adams to me.

One of my biggest successes so far has been getting a distinction on my Land Economics assignment. It was probably one of my weakest subjects to study, and I chose it because I wanted to improve my understanding of the subject, so to get a good mark was very pleasing.

Life at the Forestry Commission

I have worked for The Forestry Commission, now called Forestry England, for four years. I am the Estates Officer for The New Forest and an average day is spent out in the forest looking for any encroachments on the Crown Lands which are managed by Forestry England.

My job involves checking boundaries where neighboring properties have erected new fences; it’s important that I can ensure they are not fencing in land that doesn’t belong to them. I also have to check vehicle access tracks into the properties to make sure they have not been extended, widened or have any materials laid on them that will impact the designated SSSI land.

I spend time working with utility companies who are looking to install new services or repair existing cables and pipelines and work very closely with Natural England and the Verderers of the New Forest to make sure the works are not going to cause any long-term damage to the habitat and grazing land.

The role of the Verderers is to administer and protect the New Forest’s agricultural commoning practices as well as conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character. The Verderers are very supportive of my role and also work with me to help resolve any encroachments.

Life under Lockdown

I have been working from home since early March so haven’t had any face-to-face contact with estates colleagues since then. We have been keeping in touch through weekly online meetings to catch up on what we are working on and upcoming projects.

It has meant my role has become more flexible since lockdown, and I have been out supporting the recreation rangers and New Forest Keepers in their duties, dealing with anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and engaging with the public.

The forest has been very quiet since the lockdown which has certainly helped the ground-nesting birds who have enjoyed less disturbance from the many visitors we would normally have seen.

Combining work and education

Studying at Harper Adams has helped me gain more understanding about my job and I have learnt a great deal. ??I have also been working closely with the Land Agents at work who are able to show me work related to the modules that I have studied.

I am also proud to have been a volunteer on the boat crew at RNLI Calshot for two-and-a-half years. It's an extra activity I need to balance with work and study. I have been called out to emergencies whilst writing assignments which is a welcome distraction and can also be great for clearing my head before returning to the assignment.

I think Harper Adams is an excellent option for postgrad students and would urge anyone thinking about it to talk with the staff and discuss what best works for them. There is a lot of information on the university website and the open afternoons were very helpful for me when it came to making a decision about postgraduate study.

As far as the future is concerned, Forestry England has supported me throughout my studies and I am extremely grateful for that, so I would like to repay that support by working my way to becoming a Land Agent at Forestry England.

To find out more about the different degree options available to you at Harper Adams, join us on our Virtual Open Day on June 17. With course talks, an interactive campus tour and the chance to speak with current students about their experiences, you can see how a degree that matters can help you achieve amazing things. Click the button below to register today!

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