Interview with QMU student: Claire Doherty, MSc Dispute Resolution
Claire Doherty, 37, from Winchburgh in West Lothian, Scotland, is an MSc Dispute Resolution student at QMU and is currently studying part-time as an online learner.
The MSc Dispute Resolution is a postgraduate qualification aimed at students wishing to become dispute resolution professionals in areas such as conflict management, complaint handling, ombuds work, mediation, and arbitration.
Claire left school in 1997 with 5 Highers and no clear idea of what career path she wanted to follow. She started off in working in contact centre and administration roles within the financial services sector, first dealing with pension claims and then after three years she moved into personal banking where she has built her career.
Over the last 16 years, Claire has progressed her career in customer relations and escalated complaints departments within four different banks, including Financial Ombudsman Liaison and complaint root cause analysis.
Claire is currently a Risk and Controls Consultant. Her role involves monitoring the complaint handling processes across several departments dealing with banking and insurance products. She samples test complaints to ensure that the process and handling complies with regulation, delivers fair outcomes and assesses customer experience.
Throughout her career, Claire has taken personal development seriously. She has studied for qualifications with the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS), attaining certificates in Complaint Handling, Telephone Banking and Sales and Service. Most recently, she achieved a Certificate in Risk Management through the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) in January 2015 and after studying for over a year, the break made Claire think - what next?
An article in her local newspaper revealed that QMU had launched – the MSc in Dispute Resolution. Initially, she browsed the course content out of curiosity thinking she would never be able to do it without an undergraduate degree, and that it would probably be a full time course. Discovering that there was a chance for entry based on her professional experience and that it was online course which could fit around her career was a welcome surprise. At 37 years old, Claire feels she has finally found a degree course that she is excited about.
The Course – MSc Dispute Resolution
“The course content is extremely relevant to my role. Although I’m experienced in complaint handling, widening my knowledge of alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and adjudication, seemed to be a logical step for personal and professional development.
“Gaining knowledge in these areas is expanding my options for future career choices. However, the course content examines not only the practices themselves, but consumer behavior and responses. I could see where this would be valuable in suggesting improvements to the processes in my current role.”
Workload and time management
“With a guideline of around 150 hours of study per module, I expected the workload to be challenging but do-able. The online format means that I can study at my own pace, and I have the choice to complete one or two modules per semester.
“However, whilst working full time and studying, I’ve learned valuable lessons about my own time management. There have been times when I felt I was charging ahead full steam, and others where I’ve been racing to catch up. Setting a timetable for study time and what I expect to achieve in that time, week by week, has helped me to stay on track.”
“The support from the course leaders and the other students is invaluable. The course leaders are always approachable, and willing to respond to queries by email, or a quick phone call and provide honest and constructive feedback.
“The discussion chat on discussion boards can help you to think about things from another perspective given the variety of organisations and process differentiations. Also, when you’re studying at home alone, it helps to make you feel like part of a wider team aiming for the same goal.”
“I’m funding the majority of the fees myself, however, I’m in a fortunate position that my employer recognises that the additional knowledge and skills gained through the qualification could contribute to the organisation. They partially funded my study, which allowed me some breathing space to save for the next part.”
“The key learning I’ve taken from the course so far is around consumer behaviour and communication methods. I’ve learnt a lot about how people react to situations where they feel they are in dispute, how the other party’s reaction can help or hinder the communication process, and techniques for acknowledging these things while moving forward towards a mutually acceptable solution.
“Not only is this helping me to deal with situations professionally, but I’ve also found it to be helpful in understanding my own reactions in dealing with conflict in day to day life.”
“My top tips for other students would be to never underestimate the time and effort you need to put into the course. While online learning is great for going at your own pace, get involved in the online discussion boards, the video conferences and any other task or activity that helps you to connect with your course leaders and fellow students. They form the support network you need to stay encouraged and enthusiastic and at times just know you’re not alone.”
Notes to Editor
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