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Refugee student praises ‘very supportive’ tutors at Ashley Down Centre as she begins dental school

A Syrian refugee urges students to get back into education after she secured her place at dentistry school after completing an Access to Higher Education course with City of Bristol College, Ashley Down Centre, telling prospective students ‘it is never too late’.

Hiba Abdo, aged 28, studied the Science pathway of the Access programme in 2016/17 in a bid to continue her journey into a career as a dentist after her studies were halted in Syria and she moved to the UK.

She explained: I was studying dentistry in Syria before I moved to England and this course was the best option to tick the entry requirements of dental school. At the start of my studies at the College, I felt it was easy and I was not nervous at all, but later I found it hard to keep up with the deadlines.

“But with my tutors help, I managed to organise myself and keep up with the course. Studying at the College was simple and I felt welcomed by the tutors. The teachers were highly qualified and open minded, they respected all students and their backgrounds.”

Hiba was enrolled on a 19+ course and was surrounded by like-minded, mature students who had taken gap years and were out of education for a number of years. Hiba praised the support her lecturers provided as they ‘understood and did their best to support us’.

After completing her Access course and went on to study a Biomedical Science degree at the University of Bristol in last year. In October, she started studying dentistry at the same university.

Hiba said: “Without the Access course, I would not have been able to join the dental school in Bristol!”

The Access course Hiba studied covered a range of topics in chemistry and biology to better prepare her for her next steps. Hiba and her class also benefitted from personal tutors who were ‘very supportive’.

She said: “My personal tutor helped me a lot in writing my personal statement and completing my UCAS application. She was my reference and I guess she wrote me a very good reference!

“She was also supportive when I went through difficult time which affected my performance and progression during the course. My teachers respected the face that I needed some time to arrive late as I needed to pray – and thanks to the College, they have dedicated Prayer Rooms on campus. This was very useful and made my life at College very easy as I did not have to worry about where I would pray.”

Hiba is now encouraging students like her to ‘not hesitate in enrolling’ and that their ‘place at university is waiting for you’ and to ‘believe in yourself’.

City of Bristol College offers eight different Access to Higher Education courses with a brand-new Medicine pathway due to be launched in September. All courses are taught at the Ashley Down Centre.

Access courses offer an alternative route to university for students who left school with few or no formal qualification (such as A Levels) to help them progress to degree or foundation degree-level.

The courses you can study at City of Bristol College are:

Ashely Down is also the home of the college’s University Centre and hosts a large portion of its HE provision. The campus has a wealth of history, once used as an orphanage before becoming Bristol College of Science and Technology in the 1950s before being taken over by City of Bristol College.

Today, two of the original buildings – Davy and Cabot House – remain under the college’s ownership but the education provider is now looking for a buyer for Davy House.

Davy House is currently used for the college’s construction provision but with the new £9m Advanced Construction Skills Centre nearing completion, this is soon to be relocated.

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