Progressing from studying a short course to a full-blown MSc is an unusual scenario, but it is a well-trodden path for many Cranfield University short course students, who choose to make the transition.Take Michelle Malone, who is a Rail Investigation Lead at a highly-established and experienced railway infrastructure contractor. After working in the rail industry for over 22 years, progressing in her safety career to the role of Senior Health and Safety Manager and working for a number of principal contractors after British Rail was privatised, Michelle decided to study a short course – Fundamentals of Accident Investigation – at Cranfield.
Fast-forward a few weeks and on completion of her short course, she had begun her MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation (Rail Transport).
"The transition was seamless, as I completed the two three-week blocks in the same year, which meant that I could study the Fundamentals and Applied courses in a short space of time. This then allowed me to demonstrate that I could move on to the MSc," said Michelle.
Studying the MSc gave Michelle the skills that very few people have in the UK rail industry, as she is only one of five investigators (and the only female) trained to her level.
Following the completion of her second year at Cranfield, Michelle was offered a newly-created position within her company as a Rail Investigation Lead and has been able to use all of the new skills and information to enhance how the company conducts their investigations – which is unique to the Principal Contractor community.
"The second year was just as good if not better than the first, as I was very familiar with how the course was run and I had already completed a number of assignments (thankfully) with decent grades, so I knew I was capable of moving on to the MSc!"
Michelle’s current role as a Rail Investigation Lead has given her the chance to head up all significant investigations and support the health and safety team investigate accidents. By taking her learnings from Cranfield, Michelle now delivers a five-day IOSH (Institute of Safety and Health) accredited investigation training course that incorporates the new analytics skills learned at the university.
The newly-trained investigators then help Michelle to complete her investigations at a much higher standard than the company has ever done before.
But Michelle didn’t just gain a new qualification, she enjoyed learning the new skills and was "blown away" by how Cranfield pulls out all of the stops to make sure students get a memorable learning experience.
"I particularly enjoyed the practicals, being able to experience the scenarios at all levels and working with the team to complete our investigations. I also found I had some niche skills that I have developed further, which has helped me to better my approach to the investigations that I do in my organisation now."
Alongside her MSc, Michelle also gives credit to the three-week Fundamentals of Accident Investigation short course, both of which have helped her reach her current role as a Rail Investigation Lead.
"Without Cranfield giving me the opportunity to prove that I had the skills to move on to the MSc I would not have been given this opportunity to be working in a role that I have always wanted to do. The skills that I have been given are second to none and I still refer to my course notes and handouts regularly, when I get a certain investigation to do or I need to refresh myself on what I have learned.
"My company have invested in me greatly and they can now see the benefits of my new skills and approach to investigations, where I know we will be making a difference and changing how we can work more safely in the future."
So, what advice would Michelle give to potential students looking to study either a short course or MSc at Cranfield University?
"I’d say go for it! Anything is possible! I had never completed a degree before and have never been very academically-minded, but I knew that the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation course was something that I totally believed in – with the support from Cranfield and a little faith in myself. I would highly recommend the course to anyone who has a passion for safety and making their industry a safer place too."
And what’s next for the Rail Investigation Lead? Well, Michelle is already planning what she can do next at Cranfield!
"It’s a great university, and really does deliver on its promise to ensure the potential of all its students!"
To find out what it might be like to study a Transport Systems course at Cranfield University, check out the video below.