a centenary
of Learning

  • 94
  • by Yuan Gao
  • graduated 2010
  • studied MEd in Educational Leadership, Policy & Development (ELPD)
  • from China, Australia

My time at Bristol was definitely the best year of my life. It was an enjoyable and highly memorable experience!

I graduated from Peking University, China, in Film Studies and Economics before going on to work as a senior high school teacher in my hometown of Tianjin. It was here that I discovered my interest in education and realised I wanted to devote my life to it. Having no theoretical knowledge or background in teaching and education, I decided to enrol on Bristol’s MEd program in Educational Leadership, Policy & Development. The Graduate School of Education was my first choice not only because of its prestigious reputation and the calibre of its scholars (many of whom are leading academics in their field), but because of the quality of its postgraduate courses and the positive reviews of its graduates.

Bristol is a peaceful and comfortable city. The Avon River and the memorable harbour festival are very impressive, as well as the annual hot-air balloon fiesta. During the weekend, it is nice to relax after a hard week’s work by taking in some fresh air along the riverside. My time in the city was definitely the best year of my life. It was an enjoyable and highly memorable experience!

Studying at Bristol profoundly influenced my career. My Master’s helped me to secure a job as a program co-ordinator in the International Office of Nankai University, one of the top ten universities in China. When I came to apply for a PhD program at the University of Melbourne, my supervisor’s recommendation also helped me to win the scholarship. The reputation of the Graduate School of Education and the worldwide acknowledged certificate really is a valuable asset for any graduate’s career and having the support of experts in your field of study is a great help in securing convincing references for doctoral applications.

As well as the general high quality of the courses and research at Bristol, I found the study skills unit particularly helpful, especially since this type of support is not available in Chinese universities. Study skills are very important for developing as an academic and researcher, particularly when you are an international student faced with an unfamiliar educational system in a new country. The critical reading and writing skills taught in this unit quickly helped me to develop my abilities in this area and laid the foundation for the rest of my student experience.

I was influenced by two people in particular at Bristol’s Graduate School of Education. My personal tutor, Professor Michael Crossley, was one of the most insightful and thoughtful professors that I have ever met. His attitude towards research and his devotion to academia greatly impressed me and set an example for my own future. It is because of him that I have chosen to become an academic. I was also greatly influenced by my dissertation supervisor, Professor Sally Thomas. Professor Thomas is an expert on Chinese education and her research project, which seeks to improve education evaluation and quality in China, has helped Chinese secondary schools to develop a valuable model for measuring the effectiveness of their teaching. Preparing and writing my dissertation with her meant that I learned a lot about educational evaluation, which has since had a significant impact on my studies and research. In fact, my PhD explores the creation of measurement models for assessing and comparing university internationalization. After completing my thesis, I hope to obtain a lecturing post and continue my research in this area.

My proudest achievement so far has been organizing a half-day ‘China Education Conference’ during my second semester at Bristol. This conference, which offered an introduction to the Chinese educational system from pre-school to higher education (including vocational studies), was the first ever academic conference to be run solely by Master’s students at the Graduate School of Education. I and five other Chinese students delivered six lectures and prepared a Chinese buffet lunch all by ourselves! The conference was attended by academic staff and students from various departments and research pathways, all of whom joined in with our discussions about Chinese education.

One year goes by very quickly and I’d advise those starting out on the MEd to make the best they can of their time and resources at Bristol. The Educational Leadership, Policy & Development course demands a lot and it really pays to engage as fully as possible with the lectures, group discussions and seminars.