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“Study at the time of day when you have most energy” is Student of the Year Alan Boyd’s top tip for anyone wanting to follow his example and earn a University of Liverpool MSc in Operations and Supply Chain Management through online study. A UK civil servant, Alan says he’s benefited from the degree both personally and professionally.

"Personal development has always been an important focus to me and I have found the University of Liverpool’s online MSc in Operations and Supply Chain Management an ideal way to stretch myself academically whilst also respecting my family commitments."

Career relevance

Alan was able to study for his master's while continuing in his role with the Department for International Development (DFID), the government department that leads the UK's work to combat extreme poverty.

"I work in the Procurement and Commercial Department, focusing on building the commercial capability of DFID staff to ensure the department makes the most of the UK aid budget," he explains. "Each day brings different challenges, and I find working with DFID staff both in the UK, Asia and Africa very interesting and ultimately personally rewarding."

The online programme gave Alan more opportunities to make international connections. He says: "I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of fellow students from different countries and cultures, bringing different insights to the world of supply chain management."

While it was not always easy to find the time to study alongside work and family commitments, there were overlaps between his studies and his work. "The programme has not only helped me to develop as an individual, but I have taken knowledge and learning from the programme and applied it on a frequent basis to my day job," he says. "One of the highlights of the degree for me was undertaking the consultancy project, which allowed me to bring academic research to life within my own organisation."

Fitting study into everyday life

Every week University of Liverpool online students are assigned reading materials and written tasks with set deadlines."I found it important to find time each day to study," says Alan. "This meant fitting in study time in a busy calendar, sometimes at work, often at home, and when travelling. I found my Apple iPad an invaluable tool for reading academic papers and then preparing submissions." He studied for two hours a day during the week and up to ten hours over the weekend.

For Alan, discipline and family support were important factors for success. His advice for other online students is to plan each study week carefully, developing a schedule that works for them. He also recommends making the most of technology to organise reading material and coursework, and using potential down times such as travel as opportunities to study.

A rewarding achievement

We asked Alan to reflect on the impact his online master's is likely to have on his career. He said: "I feel that achieving the master’s degree has given me added confidence in my own ability, and re-enforced the feeling that I can take on difficult challenges and succeed. I feel that developing an inquisitive and development-focused nature will be critical to ensure that I keep abreast of new technologies and new approaches, factors that will allow me to be successful in my future career."

"The degree not only strengthens my CV in a competitive job market, but also demonstrates capability and potential for my employer and fellow colleagues." He would recommend online study with the University of Liverpool "because of the high quality of academic education provided combined within a flexible and enjoyable learning experience."

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