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Cardiff University: Changing Lives

Cardiff University has reached the top ten most popular UK universities with a huge increase in demand for undergraduate places.  Here, some of this year’s graduates reflect on how their time at the university has changed their lives.

Supporting the community

Matt Joyce

Matthew Stephen Joyce
Degree: BSc Genetics

Like many first year students, Matthew considered joining one of the countless societies and clubs that Cardiff University has to offer.

Matthew decided to give his spare time to the Student Volunteering service. His first volunteering experience was with the Soundbeam project at Ty-Gwyn school, Cardiff, giving autistic children the opportunity play with ultrasonic musical instruments, converting movements into sound.

In Matthew’s second year of study, as well as taking on the role of project co-ordinator, responsible for student recruitment, he was also involved in helping out an after school club and youth club in Rumney. Despite the rising workload of final year studies, Matthew took on the increased responsibility of being on the Executive Committee of Student Volunteering Cardiff, during which time he brought nationwide publicity to the scheme with an interview on BBC Wales’ X-ray programme. Matthew is now going on to study MSc Computing at Cardiff, whilst also holding the post of Student Volunteering Cardiff Chairman.

To find out how you can volunteer visit:

Student Volunteering Cardiff


Travel: beyond the lecture theatre


Alicia Leow-DykeAlicia Leow-Dyke
Degree: BSc Zoology


Alicia Leow-Dyke’s aim to gain original research data for her BSc Zoology took her from the University’s lecture rooms to the jungle of the remote island of Sulawesi in Indonesia and the discovery of a new species. There Alicia joined the conservation organisation, Operation Walacea, involved in the study of threatened and endemic bird species and their habitats. In preparation for her six week stint in the jungle, Alicia spent a week in a jungle training camp where she was taught basic survival skills including how to build a campfire, how to identify edible and poisonous plants and how to obtain water from plants and other natural sources. One of the most memorable lessons was going to breakfast with the guide, who then led the team to a tree crawling with yellow ants, which she says "tasted like lemon sherbet".

After six weeks living in the wilderness and sleeping on hammocks out in the open, Alicia not only collected significant data for her dissertation but was also part of the team which discovered a new species of bird, known provisionally as the Wangi Wangi white eye.


Judith Mills
Degree: BA (Hons) English Literature

While many students opt to take time out to travel after graduation, Judith Mills, who recently completed her BA (Hons) English Literature has opted for a trip with a difference. She has chosen to travel to South Africa for a volunteering placement, just outside Cape Town with Bunac in January. Judith will be working for two months in a township, helping to teach AIDS awareness. She will work five days a week for up to 40 hours per week unpaid, she said "the challenging experience offers a real sense of satisfaction in doing something really worthwhile". Judith plans to spend a third month after her voluntary placement travelling around South Africa.

Widening access: Opportunities for all

Sarah Symons
Degree: LLM (Master of Law Degree) Distinction

Sarah Symons has graduated with an LLM distinction, more than 20 years after qualifying as a solicitor in 1983.  After a long career break to bring up her children, Sarah made the decision to return to university to study for the LLM. Despite being very nervous about returning to higher education after a long break, as well as having reservations about being a little older than other students on the course, Sarah hopes she has proved it is never too late to pursue your personal goals and ambitions. Sarah says:

"I was absolutely terrified at the thought of returning to university. But now that I have graduated, it has given me the confidence to go back into the workplace".

For advice on returning to study visit:
Student Support & Development

Supporting students

Emily Cowles
Degree: Law (2:2)

Studying for a law degree poses a significant challenge in itself, but Emily Cowles encountered such adversity in her personal life that she considered leaving the course after her first year. Emily lives at home with her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer last October, known at Easter to be terminal. Her experience demonstrates the importance of supportive and understanding staff, who offered the guidance and support to continue studying through such difficult times. Emily is full of praise for the staff at Cardiff Law School and thanks her tutors, Julie Townsend and Phil Funnel for their "amazing support". Emily said she was "absolutely thrilled" at gaining her degree.

Cardiff Law School

Top of the league: Sporting successes

Kathryn Boot
Degree: BA (Hons) Communication (2:1)

Kathryn juggled a hectic schedule at university combining her passion for sport, promoting the student union social night ‘ComePlay’, a part time job, as well as studying for her BA Communication. Playing for the University’s 1st hockey team demanded an average of three games a week and Kathryn received Full Colours at the end of her three year course.

Outside university Kathryn regularly practised kickboxing and also worked for Challenger World, helping run corporate team events in Britain, Germany and Spain. Remaining true to the "work hard, play hard" ethos, Kathryn co-organised the Students’ Union popular weekly ‘ComePlay’ night in her final year after promoting the event throughout her studies. Having graduated with a 2:1, Kathryn now plans to work on a private cruising Super Yacht, while considering her future career direction.

Mari Ropstad
Degree: BA (Hons) Journalism, Film & Broadcasting (1st)

As an international student from Oslo in Norway, Mari put her English language skills to the test when she embarked on her study of BA (Hons) Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. She embraced the challenge from the outset by writing for the student weekly newspaper Gair Rhydd, as well as becoming the food editor of its magazine supplement Quench. Mari was also eager to gain practical work experience with the mainstream local press and was successful in securing a placement with the Western Mail on the Arts desk. One of her first assignments was to interview Welsh singer Aled Jones. Mari said, "I had no idea how big a celebrity he is in Wales which was probably just as well since I would have been even more nervous than I already was."

Mari also found time to pursue her passion for sport, playing for Cardiff University women’s rugby team in her first year and becoming team captain in her second and third years of study. Following her outstanding achievement in gaining a First class honours, Mari has been accepted on the postgraduate diploma course in newspaper journalism.

Philippa Tuttiet
Degree: BA (Hons) Communication

Philippa joined the women’s rugby society at the beginning of her study of BA Communication and like most students who join sports societies, hoped it would be a great way of meeting people while improving her fitness. However, she did not expect it would take her to the heights of international success, particularly given that Philippa had never played the sport before. Discovering that she had a natural flair for the game, she began playing for the regional team, moving up to the Welsh Development team until she was asked to play for the Welsh Seniors in the 2004-05 season. This gave her the opportunity to represent Wales during the 2004 South Africa tour and the 2005 Six Nations campaign. Philippa said: "I intend to pursue my international rugby career thanks to Cardiff University. I would never have even taken up the sport otherwise."

For more information on the extensive range of sports facilities, services and opportunities available to students, staff and the local community visit Careers Service.

Academic success 

Rhys Griffiths

Rhys Griffiths
Degree: Bachelor of Dental Surgery

Rhys Griffiths has followed in his father’s footsteps towards a career in dentistry and has already made his own distinctive mark during his studies at Cardiff University. Rhys was awarded the "Prize for Professionalism" by the General Dental Council in 2004 which assesses trainee dental professionals in areas such as patient care, clinical governance, team working, communication skills, reliability, integrity and knowledge. Rhys also held the responsibility of Dental Student President. A keen sportsman, Rhys represented the University in the Cardiff Medics Rugby team. Passing his final BDS with a merit, Rhys has gained employment in a dental practice in Cefn Coed, Merthyr.

Alastair Richard Dixon

Alastair Richard Dixon
Degree: BSc (Hons) Computer Science

Alastair Dixon embarked on his BSc (Hons) Computer Science with a passion and flair for fine art, a skill which he has transferred to 3D computer design during his studies. Taking a year out, Alistair studied 3D animation. He also worked at The Moving Picture Company, one of the world’s leading post production facilities for digital special effects and computer animation in features, commercials and television. Currently, Alistair is working on various projects including a concept car, a Spitfire MkII WW2 plane and an organic cat, which can be viewed on his website, His ultimate career aspiration is to work in the film industry.

Tim Edwards

Tim Edwards
Degree: BA (Hons) Religious and Theological Studies (2:1)

Tim Edwards decided to study BA (Hons) Religious and Theological Studies after studying Religious Studies at A-Level at St Cyres School in Penarth, where he was one of only two students of the subject, and the first for six years.

During his study at Cardiff University, Tim has specialised in Old Testament Studies and has become a competent reader of Ancient Hebrew. He has graduated with a 2:1 degree and plans to continue studying the Department of Religious and Theological Studies for an MA in Late Antiquity. Tim is currently writing some articles for New Life Publishing looking at contemporary theological issues, including examining Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’.