A transfer to University Centre Peterborough (UCP) shortly followed, and Ben soon realised how smaller institutions can provide benefits for local students.
Here is his story:
When I went to the sixth form at Bourne Grammar School I had always wanted to do veterinary medicine, but after two weeks of work experience at a vet's practice I decided it wasn't for me. They were honest about the unsociable hours and pay, so that made my mind up.
So then it was a case of 'what do I do now?' Luckily a position came up at the school in the SNC department as a technician, so I took that before taking up an unqualified teacher role. It was quite a big learning curve going from student to the other side of the table and then teaching. That matured me.
I also got involved in rugby coaching with the pupils, and because of these chances I realised I enjoyed sports coaching and teaching. So after two years at the school I thought I'd go down that route, and look at studying sports at university.
I initially went to a large university and it did have a lot going for it, but because I had worked for a couple of years, I was a lot more mature than those who had come straight out of school, and realised I wasn't getting out of it what I wanted.
We were sitting in rooms of 300-400 people for the core lectures, and I felt like a bit of a number. I wanted more focused relationships with the tutors who knew their stuff. Housing was also a big issue, and it was difficult finding accommodation quickly before it went - otherwise you're left with the scraps.
So again I looked elsewhere, and almost literally stumbled upon UCP at an event in 2019. I didn't realise it even existed until then.
I came to an Open Day and fell in love with the place; it was much smaller which suited me, and also really easy to transfer over, which is something you don't often hear about. I knew you could transfer courses, but not so much universities.
I asked for my transcript of modules from the university, so that I could take my credits across from that first year and didn't have to start again, and went into the second year.
UCP also does module mapping, which means that, whoever the validating partner is, the modules 'match over when you transfer. It meant I didn't have to do any extra modules; the tutor I spoke to helped me with a lot of this, so it went very smoothly.
I am now just completed a BSc (Hons) Sports Coaching and Exercise Science at UCP, and I'm really glad I made the decision. The pros of swapping far outweighed any cons.
In my case I'd already got a lot of connections with sports clubs from my time at school, so coming back and studying locally meant I could coach at the clubs.
I went from 400 students at my old university to 16 in a class at UCP, and it was a range of ages - we all got on really well.
I also got to know my lecturers a lot better. One of my coaching lecturers Jim had written a book about philosophy, so I started becoming interested in that, but that relationship would never have happened at a larger uni. We also do a lot more applied work, so we can use the theory from the books in real-life situations.
I'm predicted to get a first, and a lot of that is down to UCP and its support. Even during Covid we had at least one full day of face-to-face teaching per week, rather than going totally online.
After graduating, I'm now going to work at Peterborough College, as they're rebooting their rugby academy and I'm overseeing that part-time. I'm also setting up my own business to go into schools to deliver workshops on positivity and mindset using the philosophy lessons I've picked up, and I would also like to launch a sports coaching business as well.
Transferring to UCP was definitely the right choice for me - it didn't affect me financially, and gave me much more of what I needed. Higher education should be personalised and some get lost in the mix at larger universities.
The accommodation was so expensive at my other university and some students just won't be able to afford it, so being closer to home will definitely be beneficial to them.
Perhaps people don't know much about UCP because it's smaller. There is a misconception in society that employers will only look at you if you've been to a big Russell Group university, and that's also probably pushed too much at schools as well. I don't think that's the case.
So I would say to young people that you should do your research and not jump in when you're looking at universities.
But even if you have researched it beforehand, if it's not working for you on your course, you do have options, and you should look around and take the decision to move. It doesn't matter how much research you do beforehand, you can't replicate how it feels when you're there.
Have that confidence and make the change.