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    Archie Ruggles-Brise's postgraduate experience

    2 September 2020

    Deciding to return to higher education can be a difficult decision, especially when looking to balance studies and work. However, it can be an excellent opportunity to expand your skill set and challenge your preconceptions to find a new and potentially better way of working. This is true for Archie Ruggles-Brise who studied MProf Rural Estate and Land Management part time and graduated this year. He spoke to us about the work life balance as well as the subsequent success he has had following his graduation.

    Already working as a rural estate manager, Archie explained why he chose to come to Harper. He said: “I looked at a number of institutions offering courses covering land management at postgraduate level in order - initially at least - to bolster my understanding of the land management sector, in particular professional advice.

    “I have been commissioning advice for many years and felt it was time I understood better the basis of the guidance I was being offered, so that I could ask better questions, and have a better understanding of the answers.

    “At the time I was searching for a course only Harper offered a teaching structure that I could incorporate into running a business and family life. Other part time courses required regular weekly attendance, or simply didn’t offer a viable part time option.

    “When I met tutors from Harper I was impressed by their approach and experience teaching older students. As well as their business-friendly course structure, they bring in outside expertise to supplement academic teaching, have a full range of site visits and vibrant links to industry. As I was looking for a course that offered practical insights as well as theoretical knowledge it seemed like a good fit.”

    Having made his way to campus to undertake his module learning, much of Archie’s studying was then taken home to be applied in his day to day work. Balancing essays with everyday life is something most students discover how to adapt to over their time at university, as did Archie. He commented: “At times it was very challenging.

    “The demands of both family and work life meant that both the taught weeks and subsequent assignment time put significant extra strain on both work and family. I am grateful to my family and colleagues, without whom there is no way I’d have been able to complete the course. I’d like to say particular thanks to my wife who has supported me unfailingly these past years. Our third child arrived during my studies, making the evenings and weekends I spent on the course even more challenging!

    “What made it work was the ability to fit the taught week blocks around my other commitments. This meant I ended up doing four modules in each of the four academic years I studied, involving 4 weeks out of the office each year, arranging back up cover and working in evenings during the taught week at Harper. At the outset the postgraduate course leader made it very clear this level of extra commitment would be required, so I went into the course with that expectation, which was invaluable.”

    Reflecting on his time at Harper, Archie shared the highlights of returning to university: “That’s a hard one as there have been a number of really interesting and enlightening moments.

    “I think, in general, the chance to step away from the day job and get back to thinking reasonably deeply about the various subjects was the greatest benefit of the course. Since my first degree I realised I hadn’t had much chance, or indeed the confidence, to look critically at research, professional practices and accepted wisdoms. The course has been the stimulus to look again at what we do and try to build alternative approaches that make best use of my existing knowledge, and the new understanding I have gained from my time at Harper.”

    Taking this new understanding forward encouraged Archie to apply to become a Chartered Water and Environment Manager. Successfully qualifying, he attributes his success to the work ethic he gained from his studies. He said: “It’s been quite a year! Having gone through the Chartership process, itself enabled by the discipline instilled by the MProf, I’m at a crossroads.

    “I don’t yet have any solid plans to develop beyond running the estate but I’m certainly becoming involved with a number of interesting opportunities as a result. I’m keen to help other estates and organisations get to grips with the changing policy environment post-Brexit, natural capital and public goods provision, and to bring the worlds of environmental NGOs and land managers closer together through practical demonstration projects.”

    Although a challenge, Archie’s experience is one he does not regret. Opening up new doors and presenting the opportunities of furthering his career, he advocates for returning to education to seek a new challenge. He explained: “I’d certainly encourage anyone thinking of returning to study to give it serious thought. For those in a similar position to me, with considerable work and potentially family commitments, I’d suggest that my experience (and others I met on the course) is proof that it can be done, and done well, so give it a go!

    “The world of land management is changing faster than at any time in the last generation, so will require people with solid understanding, but also an ability to innovate and challenge. Harper can offer that.”

    To find out more about our taught postgraduate opportunities, click here.



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