Ben Nicol, from Edinburgh, had worked for several years as a construction manager and then more recently as a landscape gardener. But then the pandemic hit, and he was made redundant. It was a massive shock to the system, but he was determined to turn a difficult situation into an opportunity. He had enjoyed doing financial tasks when he had worked as project manager, so he already had an interest and aptitude for finance and accounting. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Ben took the bull by the horns and applied for the MSc Accounting and Finance with CIMA at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He hasn’t looked back.
Ben tells us more about the benefits of changing direction in his 30s and navigating the new course as an adult returner to education.
How did you find adapting to university study?
Extremely difficult, especially any writing tasks.
What have you enjoyed most about your course?
Making friends and the sense of achievement by completing the Master’s programme.
What have been the challenges?
Fitting studying and socialising around a full-time job with a construction company.
Tell us about the way the course helps you apply your academic knowledge to real life?
"I now have a career in finance. I work as a finance manager at a construction company, and the reflective writing and note keeping that I’ve learned on the course have been invaluable. Even after leaving the MSc Accounting and Finance with CIMA, it has continued to help my development."
Does the course allow you to shape your future career?
Yes, it already has. I have managed to secure a job as a Finance Manager in Edinburgh Construction. This uses some of my previous experience in Construction and my new skills in Accounting and Finance.
Can you study areas of particular interest to you? -
Yes. Students on QMU’s MSc Accounting and Finance with CIMA complete a Capstone module. This takes the form of either a 12,000-word Dissertation, a Business Consultancy in Practice project, or a Business Incubation Programme. So I was able to choose to do a project rather than having to do a traditional disseration, which was the particular reason that I chose this course over the Heriot Watt course. The basis of each Accounting course is similar but the different project for the second half of the year was appealing to me.
Choosing work as a Financial Consultant has helped massively in giving me confidence.
What have been your highlights at QMU?
The first teambuilding session, making friends and helping out a local company.
What would you like to happen after graduation? Do you have a plan?
I’m happy to continue in my current role as Finance Manager at Edinburgh Construction. I plan to sit my CIMA exam in February 2023 and continue my career progression by taking on more and more financial responsibilities.
Sum up your course in three words
Useful, interesting, difficult.
Describe how your university experience has changed your life
I have a new career that I chose myself and enjoy, I am more positive about my future going forward.
What advice would you give to someone else considering this course?
Take it while you have the chance, this is the only course that gives you real world experience!
I would encourage anyone doing this course to try the Business Consultancy or Business Incubation as this makes the course unique from the competitors in Edinburgh. The additional CIMA test helps a lot as most employers are looking for potential employees to be doing CIMA or at least working towards it. This will give you an advantage in applying for jobs after University.
Published November 2022
" I would encourage anyone doing this course to try the Business Consultancy or Business Incubation as this makes the course unique from the competitors in Edinburgh. The additional CIMA test helps a lot as most employers are looking for potential employees to be doing CIMA or at least working towards it. This will give you an advantage in applying for jobs after University. "