Rachel is in the final year of an MPhil researching the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the Free Swimming Initiative on Physical Activity in Wigan; she also teaches undergraduates on a variety of modules in the School of Health Sciences.
"After graduating from Edge Hill University with a 1st class honours Sport and Exercise Science degree in 2009, I continued the retail work that had supported me during my academic studies. After nine-months I was fortunate to be offered the chance to start a Two Year MPhil Studentship at the University of Salford involving the Evaluation of Wigan Borough’s Free Swimming Programme.
"The sponsored research studentship is similar to a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) offered at the University but without the official title! My role entails working within a collaborative research team involving the University of Salford and University of Leeds investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the Free Swimming Initiative (FSI) on physical activity in Wigan, a borough of Greater Manchester.
"I also teach undergraduates on a variety of modules in the Directorate of Sport, Exercise and Physiotherapy. My teaching doesn’t only involve giving lectures and seminars, but includes marking and providing guidance and support to undergraduate students.
"From my perspective, the studentship was a fantastic opportunity to cultivate my growing interest in higher education teaching, and flavour the potential career route. I feel extremely privileged to have experienced teaching first-hand and to have received excellent support from the Directorate teaching team. In addition to my teaching I was the Postgraduate Student Representative for the School of Health, Sport and Rehabilitation Sciences in 2010-2011.
"I am currently in my final year of my MPhil research that is centred on free swimming. The Free Swimming Initiative (FSI) was a cross-government scheme designed to increase participation in swimming in England and lead to subsequent health and economic benefits (2009-2010). Financial barriers have been well documented as predictors of lifestyle behaviours such as diet, yet in relation to physical activity have received little attention. Whether the removal of such barriers would facilitate sustainable participation in physical activity is unknown.
"The manipulation of the entry-fee during Wigan Borough’s FSI, 2008-2011, offers a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the cost barrier on swimming trends over time, derived from a national-level campaign.
"Despite a period of uncertainty surrounding the future of free swimming and the consequential impact on the project following last year’s change of government, my work has been relatively problem-free. My varied role within the Directorate has certainly been challenging; balancing teaching, project working and my own post-graduate research. I have had to manage my time and workload effectively, remaining highly organised in order to complete tasks successfully. Yet I view this as a positive, as it will most-definitely serve to prepare me for my future career.
"Overall, my time at Salford has been one of delight where I have grown in confidence as a result of the unique studentship experience. I can honestly say that I am pleased that I chose to pursue my postgraduate education at The University of Salford."