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    Former Royal Marine Commando’s inspiring University journey secures British Education Award

    Posted 19 February

    “I was shocked to be nominated for the award! My time at Harper was filled with achievements that I never thought were possible when I thought about applying to attend university."

    Stuart Rowlands with his British Education Award

    A former Royal Marine Commando’s inspiring University journey has seen him named a winner at the British Education Awards 2024.

    Stuart Rowlands – who graduated from his  BSC (Hons) Rural Property Management course at Harper Adams last year and is now pursuing a PhD at the University – was named as Zone One Degree Winner for his academic achievements.

    The prize is the latest success for Stuart since he began his studies at Harper Adams five years ago.

    Stuart joined Harper Adams as a mature student after 10 years serving as a Commando, unsure if University was the right choice - and is now pursuing a PhD which he is working on in partnership with supermarket chain Morrisons.

    He said: “I was shocked to be nominated for the award! My time at Harper was filled with achievements that I never thought were possible when I thought about applying to attend university, I was ‘pretty average’ at school.

    “For a start I didn’t think I would get in - let alone gain scholarships with the CLA Trust and the Harper Adams Club, or perform well academically - winning the Tilhill forestry prize and receiving First Class Honours.

    “To top it off with being awarded this prize has been fantastic.

    “My wife and I took a big gamble when I left the Royal Marines to attend Uni and it is fantastic to be recognised for the hard work we put in. I was glad that Sarah was there to support me at the awards night as she has throughout my Undergraduate and Postgraduate education.”

    Stuart, from Staffordshire, was awarded his degree at a glittering ceremony at the Manchester Hilton, where judges drew particular attention to his ongoing commitment to the military – and his support for others.

    Their citation noted: “His loyalty to the armed forces is illustrated in the many affiliations he has with organisations that help veterans gain employment.

    “He also mentors undergraduates at Harper Adams.”

    Looking back at his Undergraduate degree, Stuart said: “It was a huge change; I went from being a Royal Marine Commando training recruits to a student a few weeks after.

    “I am fairly adaptive, and it helped that there were a couple of other ‘mature’ students so settling in went smoothly. The course was brilliant - it gave me the tools to go to a second career as a Rural Surveyor if I had not taken a different path.

    “I chose Harper Adams - and specifically Rural Property Management - because of the employment opportunities it would create. Also, having a paid placement year in the middle really helps financially for a mature student with young kids.

    “Since returning as a Postgraduate Researcher, I have begun to understand the University better and I am enjoying the hybrid role of student-staff that PhD students find themselves in.

    “I work in an office with some great and supportive people who definitely helped with an early bout of imposter syndrome!

    “Whilst I undertake my research I plan to get some experience in lecturing which will be a different challenge to the previous teaching I undertook in the Marines, but I plan to engage will every opportunity I am presented with and keep my options open for employment once I complete my PhD.”

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