Case study

Embracing
every
opportunity

Justin Jones was worried about his future. His first university experience in London hadn’t worked out and he wasn't sure what to do next. But moving to Derby, finding new friendships and opportunities, has given him the chance to rebuild from the ground up.

Justin Jones tells his student story

View Justin's story video transcript

Welcome and safe

Sometimes the way in is where you would least expect to find it. Justin’s route back into university was not a traditional one. He moved to Derby after failing a two-year foundation degree in London. He has family here, and he started going to church.

Friendships developed and some of these friends from church were University of Derby students. They gave him the encouragement to give university another go. He joined our Pre-Access course, which then led to our Access course.

“What I loved about Derby was having a social group of friendly faces before I joined,” he says. “They were very supportive. The community feel was very positive and powerful for me.

“Before I joined the University, one student invited me in and showed me around the campus and Derby city. Due to that one friend who opened the door to me, it made me feel very welcome and safe.”

Students drinking coffee together at 67 Bridge Street cafe
Justin's friends encouraged him to give university another go

Feeling inspired

After his previous experience, Justin was worried he wouldn’t even make it through his Pre-Access course. But he found studying at the University itself helped to motivate him. He explains: “I thought I was going to be studying at a college but I really appreciated actually joining the University because I enjoy the University feel. You don’t get that elsewhere. University students are more mature and that helps me focus; it inspires me.”

Still, it hasn’t been easy for him, particularly at the start. He says: “Initially, I struggled a bit, but the University, the lecturers, people on my course, they’ve been really supportive, and that’s important. My experience so far has been really great.

“On Pre-Access, initially I wasn’t good at Maths but I've improved because of the focus on English and Maths. Revisiting these subjects has given me skills I truly apply to daily life, expressing myself more clearly. These are my foundations and I believe these will help me for life.”

Students drinking coffee at 67 Bridge Street

On his way

Justin now has a clear path opening up in front of him. His next goal is our Business Management degree course. He says: “Becoming a student, I just felt really excited, getting a student card and just getting stuck in with the University. I just love the University feel. It really inspired me to do a degree here.

“I am proud of getting this far. I was unsure where I was going to go but I have more of a direction now, it is clear. I have built that myself and have the support around me.”

He is also aiming for a placement with Rolls-Royce in Derby to gain work experience, having already joined the Army Reserve, Royal Logistic Corps, an opportunity he found in the University library.

He says: “I have grown in confidence. I could even say I am bold. I have put myself out there into the unknown. I am more self-aware. My journey is enabling me to learn more about myself.”

Biggest impact

Justin’s new-found confidence has allowed him to take new opportunities. He has signed up to our Student Employment Agency and has worked at Open Days, welcoming potential new students. “I got stuck in and tried it and I engaged really well with everyone,” he says. “You have to make the most of opportunities and meet new people, join a society.”

The society that has had the biggest impact on Justin’s University life is the Christian Union. It also provided the link that brought him to us. He says: “They are my social friends, they support me when I am struggling. Church on Sundays is my recharge time from the week. We have a morning service and then a social lunch to talk about our week.”

Justin says his experience of the University is that it is “constantly changing” and is exciting and inspiring. “The University listens to the students,” he says. “It shapes itself around the students. It has been a positive experience for me.”