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Changing keys: from jazz guitar at a conservatoire to an engineering degree at the University of Sheffield Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Toby left school with a string of A*s at GCSE, but the experience of suffering a bereavement during his exams led him to abandon academic study in favour of music.

After achieving a qualification in sound engineering at sixth form, Toby auditioned for a conservatoire and gained entry playing jazz guitar. He soon realised, however, that life as a musician was not quite as he had imagined. When Covid-19 struck, he made the decision to pursue a new set of qualifications with the aim of becoming an engineer.

Toby enrolled with NEC and embarked on A level Maths, A level Further Maths and A level Physics, an ideal combination for many engineering courses at university level. As well as being a private maths and guitar tutor, he worked as a customer assistant with Tesco from 5-11pm, making time for his own studies during the day. As such, the flexibility of online learning worked well for him:

“I was able to study the course at my own pace and the assignment feedback was always detailed and insightful. The course materials were extensive and high quality.”

In particular, Toby highlights the role played by his “extremely helpful, prompt and professional” NEC tutors who supported him through his three subjects:

“My physics tutor Christine provided me with excellent advice throughout my course. Also, Student Support were fantastic and the exams department went the extra mile to get my results to my chosen university.”

With an amazing 3 A*s at A level, Toby has now progressed to BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Sheffield, which is ranked in the world top 100 universities (QS World University Rankings 2021) and a member of the prestigious UK Russell Group.

Any advice for those considering distance learning?

“Consider the reality of the time commitment and have patience! Also, make use of all the resources available to you – books, YouTube, blog posts and your tutors!”

We wish Toby all the very best of luck with this exciting new start.

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