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Introducing the PG Certificate Higher Education: An interview with Niall Carlin

Niall Carlin studied the PG Certificate Higher Education (PGCHE) online part-time. We spoke with Niall Carlin to hear about his experience studying whilst working, what he enjoyed most about the course and advice he would give to anyone interested in studying a PGCHE with us.

By Cara Fielder. Published 29 June 2022. Last updated 4 January 2023.

After working at a legal practice, I did not have much experience with higher education, teaching or lecturing. I was inspired to study the PG certificate in order to develop and improve my knowledge and skills in teaching and research.

I completed the PGCHE part-time over two years while teaching and working full-time for ULaw. It was difficult to balance the two as I had to schedule time to get the necessary reading and written work completed.

As I did not have any experience in conducting academic research prior to studying this course, academic research seemed quite intimidating to begin with. A lot of complex language and processes are involved and there is lots of reading to do about the processes before you even think about starting to conduct any research.

We had quite a bit of flexibility around the research we could do; I chose to look at an area of theory in education called threshold concepts. This is the idea that many courses of study have particularly difficult parts of the syllabus for students to understand, but when they do, it changes their perception of the subject completely and really helps them to understand the subject better.

I sought to identify any threshold concepts in the courses I taught for ULaw. Then I made changes to how we teach that module at ULaw to better help students understand that topic.

The research was my favourite part of the course, but teaching literature is very interesting and helpful. Research was my favourite area because as, initially it can be quite intimidating and daunting, but then when you get your head round it and do some successfully, it becomes really enjoyable, improves your knowledge and is helpful for further studies and work roles, particularly in higher education.

The literature on teaching includes details about lots of research and theories that have developed around teaching - what teaching involves, techniques and tips about how to be a better teacher. I found this very interesting for its own sake, but again, it helps with my day job of a tutor.

Studying the PG Cert Higher Education has definitely helped me to achieve my career goals. It also improved my confidence as a tutor. Following my studies, I had the confidence to go for and obtain a management role with ULaw as a programme leader for law conversion courses. I have now also gone on to a different role where I teach the PGCHE course at ULaw for other colleagues. I have also started further studies myself in the form of a PhD where I may now do further research around threshold concepts.

The advice I would give to anyone considering the PG Cert Higher Education is if you already work in, or would like to be a tutor in higher education this is a very helpful course of study and qualification to have.

I would definitely recommend the PGCHE. As I touch on above, studying the teaching literature improves your confidence and teaching ability. Doing research as part of this qualification improves your confidence as a tutor and puts you in a good position to go on to further qualifications like diplomas, Master’s degrees and PhDs, including our MA Education Online degree or Postgraduate Diploma Higher Education (PGDipHE). All of that has a knock-on effect in terms of improving your personal and professional development, promotion and employment prospects. The courses are also interesting in their own right.

In terms of anything I wish I knew in advance of studying the course, I suppose one thing might be how challenging it would be and how much time it takes. As I touch on above, there are lots of benefits personally and professionally in doing a qualification like this, but it is challenging and difficult to do, especially while working full time, you need to be very organised and efficient to manage the course of this nature generally, and especially alongside working and/or other personal commitments you may have.


To read more about ULaw’s PGCHE courses please visit ULaw education courses.