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Paul Emmett

current University of Nottingham student



The Access to Higher Education Diploma and Grantham College have been absolutely fantastic and have allowed me to get back into what I knew I always wanted to do. After some life experience, starting a family, and a selection of different jobs over the years, I feel much better placed to make the most of my next few years at university, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Paul's story

When I left school after doing A Levels in 2004, I was still under the impression that I was going to take a gap year and then go to music college. That didn’t happen, and I found myself in a few different jobs, working in a supermarket, qualifying as a mortgage advisor, and eventually settling in as a self-employed peripatetic music teacher.


When the lockdown happened in March 2020, I lost all my work and income, and I spent a few months trying to figure out what I wanted to do. In the back of my mind there had always been this thought that I could go to university and so, during the summer as lockdown initially eased, I looked at what I could do in September. Having spoken to admissions tutors I knew that I wouldn’t meet the entry requirements which is how I came across the Access to Higher Education course at Grantham College.


I enrolled on the Access to HE Diploma (Science) at Grantham College, having spoken to admissions tutors at university to confirm that this would be an acceptable requirement to get onto a music course. I have always had an interest in science and enjoy looking at the links between music, science and maths, and this seemed like a fantastic way to get myself back into education, as well as getting myself used to working in a more academic way. It had been about 16 years since I left school, and if I am being honest, I was never a particularly academic student back then!


There were three other people taking the science pathway which was a lovely little group, and we have all become good friends during the past year, and we would join the healthcare students for biology and study skills in a larger group of about 30. This worked well as it gave me a great oversight of the Diploma and what everyone else was working with. This led me to being nominated and voted as the Mature Student representative for the Students’ Union (SU), and I was also voted the Co-President of the SU for the year as well.


This academic year has been quite significantly affected by COVID-19 and at least 50% or more of the teaching was delivered online over Microsoft Teams. This has had its issues, but we have been able to deal with this well as a cohort and if anything strengthened friendships through online quiz nights or study groups. The tutors have been fantastic throughout the year and have supported me through the course superbly and I couldn’t recommend them more.


I received an offer from the University of Nottingham in December 2020. Having completed the Diploma, I have met all the requirements and so will be going to Nottingham in September 2021 to study music. I am wanting to focus on writing and composing as well as music theory while I am at university, and I would like to work in the future in writing music for TV and film. My experience of being self-employed over the last 10 years has made me aware of how important versatility is within this career. Spending a year studying science has given me a new insight into how it interfaces with music and has prepared me well for my future studies at university.


At the end of the course, we had a little graduation ceremony, and because there hadn’t been any opportunity to ‘show off’ my music (other than a short little jingle about gout for a biology lesson), I thought I would put together a little video with some memories of the year and a thank you to the tutors. And so, I spent a couple of days finding some fun songs to rewrite the words to, put them into a bit of a medley and then recorded a bit of a daft video to go with it! I’ve been making little videos on and off for a few years and I’ve found some time during lockdown to practice the video editing a bit, so it was a fun thing to try out.


The Access to Higher Education Diploma and Grantham College have been absolutely fantastic and have allowed me to get back into what I knew I always wanted to do. After some life experience, starting a family, and a selection of different jobs over the years, I feel much better placed to make the most of my next few years at university, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.