I’m Michelle Nixon, the new HEP for Go Higher West Yorkshire!
So, what is a HEP and what do they do? Great question, and honestly, it was my first question in my first team meeting. HEP stands for Higher Education Provide, and there are currently 13 HEPs based in colleges and universities across the West Yorkshire region. Our main role is to bridge the gap between the most and least represented groups in education, along with providing information surrounding accessing higher education. This includes topics such as student finance, apprenticeships and the different pathways to higher education.
Talking about pathways, my pathway to higher education was largely nontraditional. I left upper school in 1994 with all nine GCSEs but spectacularly failing my A-levels after making the mistake of choosing A-levels I had no passion for- life lesson number one! I took a gap year for a few years, and then joined the workforce. During that time, I worked for a photo-processing lab and slowly realised that photography was my new passion. In 1996 I enrolled in a Photography night school class at Bradford College and completely fell in love with it. From there, I created a portfolio and applied for a Photography HND program at Leeds College of Art. I was accepted, and in 1997 I began my new education journey.
After graduating with an HND in 1999, I was accepted at Bradford College for their BA Hons Design Technology and Photography Degree. Making the decision to study at Bradford College was an easy on for me- it had a community environment, smaller classes meaning more individual hands-on time with the tutors, and a fantastic Visual Arts department.
Along with my three years of study, one of the benefits of being a student was having the opportunity to enroll in Camp America, where I spent the summer working at a camp on the East coast of America. This proved to be life-changing for me; not only did it bolster my CV, leadership skills and confidence, but it completely changed the trajectory of my life.
When I graduated with a First Class Hons degree in Photography in 2001, I attended my last summer at camp and never came back to live in the UK. After moving to the US permanently, I accomplished my dream of living in New York City and becoming a professional photographer. I am telling you this not to be egotistical, but to hopefully inspire someone that you do not have to take the traditional route into higher education- you can sometimes go around the houses to get there!
Nearly twenty years later, my life has come round full circle. I moved back to the UK in 2019 to be closer to family, and I am now working at the college I left back in 2001. The college looks a little different, but the community feeling is still alive and kicking. I am honoured to be part of the team at Go Higher West Yorkshire, an organisation whose foundation is successfully guiding students into higher education. My goal is to teach, educate, motivate, and inspire students from all backgrounds that no matter what your circumstances are, there is a right path for you.
Michelle Nixon, Bradford College