Welcome to the world of Music TJ!

Higher Education



On Friday I graduated from my Masters degree in Music Performance.

I don’t do pride much, as those of you who read my blog about my single release and other ‘achievements’ will know. But as I look back over the last number of years, I do feel a touch of pride indeed. I am no academic, I am horrendous at academic writing. My writing style is colloquial to say the least, not the approach required for academic writing at all. I still remember thinking the Under Graduate degree was a trial. On beginning the Masters degree, I came to a new understanding of the word stress. So, despite being a tad disappointed with my final grade, I am very happy indeed to have gained my Masters qualification. In the years to come, I hope I can make my family and Kingston University proud. wpid-IMG-20140124-WA0003.jpg

My graduation weekend began with the ceremony itself on Friday 24 January at The Rose Theatre in Kingston. Eason Chan, a Cantopop megastar received an honorary PhD at the ceremony, which added a certain glamour to the whole event. And I must say, getting to talk to him afterwards and asking questions of him at his press conference just made the day even better.

Eason Chan & TJWith family and friends in attendance, the day was beyond amazing. From Eason’s speech, to the vote of thanks by a ‘mature’ student, and then being awarded my degree by Julius, a man I know and have a great deal of respect for. He actually plugged me at the press conference! It was an amazing day. 🙂

With all the pressure I was under and the fear I wouldn’t complete the masters programme, I now ask myself if it was all worth it. My answer is yes, it most certainly was. Attending that ceremony did more than mark the end of of something. It helped to validate everything that I had to deal with over the last two years. My love for performance and for music, were the reasons I decided to extend my study in my field. Higher Education remains the way forward, no matter what certain papers may tell you. It is because of this value that it remains a bargaining piece in the political games that have been played over the last number of years in this country. And why the Liberal Democrats have much to worry about come the next general election. But, this isn’t a blog about politics. This is a blog about hope and belief. I will continue to advice others to study their passions. Seek to learn more about what you love. The PG course, as ardous as it can be, will question your understanding of your subject. It will make you question yourself and it will give you a better understanding of why you love what you love. So, it is important to know that the value of the degree isn’t in the money you have to pay for it. It is in what you get out of it. And I have always held the belief that if I want something badly enough there is nothing that will stop me from getting it. I am hardwired to try and keep trying until the final bell tolls. I worked two jobs to pay my way through my masters and didn’t get much by way of sleep. And once again, I ask, was it worth it? YES it most certainly was. Find out what you want, then go and get it. The first part of that is important. As once you know you want it, there’s no stopping you. In his speech, Eason Chan said that one should always have a kind heart. I’ve tried to keep with that motto. It’s harder to do at sometimes, but I still try. And will continue to do so.

I once told myself, when all seemed lost almost fifteen years ago, that I either fight or die, no middle ground. I’ve been fighting ever since. For me there has only ever been one option. And that is to win. And so I will, by nook or by crook. There are too many people to thank and continue thanking. I love you with all of me.

What’s next for me I hear you ask? Well, I’m currently working at Kingston International, with an amazing team of people. Will be there till the end of July. At this point I shall head to Italy to work till the end of Sept. Yesterday, I met with the MD (Musical Director) of the band I work with over there. Looking forward to working with them again. Afterwards, the next chapter in the adventure that is my life shall begin. To say I’m excited for the future doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel right now. 🙂

My graduation weekend concludes today, with a performance with my newly formed band ‘TJ and Friends’ at the Rose Theatre. So, if you’re in and around Kingston Upon Thames today, head to the Rose Theatre, where the 1st Annual Kingston Arts Student Festival will be taking place. The day begins at 12pm, till about 6pm. I will be on stage at 4.30.

Look forward to seeing you there! 🙂

And once again, thank you all for your support and your strength!

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The end of one Chapter! (So what’s next?)

I’m coming out of what has been a very stressful time. I just handed in my Masters dissertation. This sees the end of a two year journey of stress and more stress.

So of course, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what comes next and write a blog!

At the start of February 2003 I began working for Vodafone UK Ltd. After 18months of being unemployed, I received a job offer from Vodafone for a customer services position.I had turned down a number of sales jobs, as I felt none of them offered what I was looking for in terms of progression, and the traits required for selling were not the ones I wanted to necessarily develop. I wanted to be a part of an organisation where I had the chance for upward movement. So VF was the perfect place for me at the time. I spent two years there and in that time I was stretched, pushed, squashed, twisted and challenged in so many different ways. I was made to grow in ways I never thought I could or would. And definitely in much more ways that I grew during 5 years of working at the Birmingham City Council. I grew exceptionally loyal to the place, as it taught me that my future was much brighter than I had previously hoped. So when I left there, it was truly with a heavy heart. But, not a single regret.

10 years ago I never though I’d have a single degree. Today I finish my second. Ecstatic doesn’t even cover it!

The future looms ahead of me. And at 35 I am so full of life and energy. I cannot wait to see what’s next.

There are tooooooo many people to thank for the last 7 or so years. Institutions and individuals. Cultures and countries. Colours and continents have been opened up for me thanks to all of you.

My achievements, my worth, my everything is dedicated to you wonderful people in my life. The encouragement and in some cases the discouragement have driven me to strive beyond what people or even I thought I could achieve.

Let’s see what comes next!

PG’s in for 2012/13

I’ve been a tad slow in updating my blog. So this blog is about Sept and Oct and what I’ve been up to these last two months.

So the 2012/13 year has begun.

With economic uncertain and unemployment aplenty, many are flocking to HE institutions to gain qualifications and many are seeing the need for a Post Graduate qualification. In a job market with about 73 people vying for the same graduate job it makes perfect sense for students to seek the extra edge via a PG qualification. Alongside this, it is also important to ‘get involved’

This I have tried to do.

I attended two Post Grad Meet and Greet events in Sept. Within both I got to meet up with new PG students and discuss their plans for the future. Many have some grand plans indeed. It’s great to hear some of them. I attended an event for Kingston Entrepreneurs and was encouraged by the opportunities some of our students have taken advantage of.

I particularly love the fact that the university aids students in setting up and running their own businesses as part of the Enterprise Business Awards scheme. And if my year hadn’t already promised to be insanely busy, I would be taking part in the scheme myself. Instead, I shall attend as many sessions as my schedule allows and try to transfer the skills learnt to all that I’m currently doing.

I went to the Kingston Carnival at the start of September and watched the Surbiton parade from the window of my apartment! I never knew we had that many classic cars in Surbiton.

I attended two International Students’ Cafe events and as a result met many new students, one of whom has designed the art for my upcoming single and will be designing the art for my first solo album!

At the end of the month of October, I attended a media summit. Sir Trevor McDonald was the keynote speaker at this, and it was an immense pleasure to hear him speak. I found him to be quite engaging, even if he did name drop a fair bit. Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and George W. Bush to name but a few! On the same day, I attended some seminars on using social media to promote oneself. Afterwards I attended a networking event, where I met a number of different people, including Creative-Bloc .

All that was only September and October. And that does not include the writing of a new song, the acoustic recording of another. I’ll try to make my next blog a tad more creative. Maybe a short video blog of a recording session, or a new poem. I’ll see what the creative juices sprout out of me!

I’m told the world is my oyster. I tend to believe it.

Till next time. 😉

Students and their University

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting with some PGT students. Specifically, students studying for a Masters in Managing the Creative Economy. I had assisted with a project they were working on. Afterwards we sat down to chat.

I asked the questions I usually do, why did you choose KU? And has it met your expectations so far?

I found that for most, they had received offers from other universities, Goldsmith, UCL etc and they chose KU above these. So of course, I inquired why KU? To which unanimously the response was that the KU programme was the most practical. And to date they’ve not been disappointed. There have of course, been hiccups but, still no regrets. They love their lecturers and they enjoy their programme of study very much.

After querying how the programme could be improved, someone said it would help if embedded in the programme was an individual SWOT analysis for each student, as this is something that is needed in management as well as personal development. A lack of a measurable PDP was bemoaned. The discussion then swayed towards asking the question, whether it’s up to the university to do this or the individual.

So of course, the question was posed to the group, is it the responsibility of a PG degree to do this or a UG degree? While working in student politics, we once had over eighty people apply for one position and I remember the process of elimination. We live in an age where companies can have as many as sixty individuals applying for one position. Individuals can no longer wait until they are employed before a PDP is begun. And if one is going into business, it is absolutely essential that the business as a whole is continually aware of these things. So, where do individuals gain the skills necessary for it?

People no longer seem to go to university simply for the sake of learning. We go so that we can get a better job or climb the social ladder. It has been known for a while now that Higher Education is a key component to Social Mobility. So we go to university for a better social status, better income and to improve our own self worth. Universities are aware of this, so it behoves an institution to provide students with what they need. The changing role of the academic means that an academic can no longer state that his/her role is simply to teach, but to prepare individuals for what is to come.

What can the universities themselves do? One of the students said something very clearly “stop all the consultancy exercises and get on with the job of improving the university.” I found that quite interesting, as I think consulting those who will be affected by any changes made to or by the university is essential. But I do agree that at some point the consulting must stop and the work must begin. The perception to this particular student was that there is too much consulting and not enough action.

And probably more importantly, what can students do. What can we do once we’re at university? I think this is where involvement in things other than the academia side of university comes in very handy. Some courses lend themselves to such things, while many do not. So activities such as running societies or getting involved in sports clubs. Or even creating your own initiatives, these become exceptionally important as institutions like Kingston and many other “new” universities are well placed to provide excellent support for these students.

Personally, I found the biggest benefits I got out of my university were when I got myself involved in things. When I got involved with UNAKU (United Nations Association Kingston University) and began organising their charity music events and when I started my own Gospel Choir. These things got me introduced to a whole network of people, the very same people who in the end convinced me to run for Students’ Union President and were instrumental in my victory in both elections. And my experience in that post is absolutely invaluable.

While there is a great responsibility on the university to do “exactly what it says on the tin” a greater responsibility lies with the student that made the choice in the first place, to work towards gaining the skills they will need. After all, it is their future at stake.

Until my next blog, have a grand time. 😉

Why Study?

In truth, this is a fair question. In this day and age, with Higher Education in the state that it currently is, why bother studying at a Higher Education level at all?

In my view, every individual must make this choice for themselves. I cannot answer it for you. I can only tell you why I studied and why I am still studying.

I was expected to attend university. Both my parents went and are highly qualified in their fields. I chose not to go all those years ago when I first had the choice. I was to study Software Engineering, though I had no passion for the subject. As a result, I didn’t go. And at the age of 19 I went off into the big wide world of work. I started at the bottom, like everyone else. I need not tell the complete story in a blog. I’ll probably write it all in my next book.

Some years later, while working at Vodafone as a Team Manager, I approached my senior manager to discuss my options with regards to career progression. And the obvious route forward was to head towards senior management myself. To get there I would need to study, possibly something in HR management and with CIPD accreditation. I considered this for a while and with nothing further to prove to myself, I decided that if I’m to return to HE I might as well study something I’m passionate about, hence my decision to study music. My plan was always to move on to postgraduate study afterwards.

This is a subject I absolutely love. At the time of my original university applications I wasn’t as yet certain as to what I wanted to do, so it would have been rather silly to decide on my career right there and then. My time away from education put me in great stead to decide on what I wanted to do. I’ve had to deal with a number of challenges it’s true. But at no point during my degree has quitting ever been an option for me. And I think that’s made a huge difference. If you’re studying something you really want, not just because it will help you get a job or whatever other reason people go to uni, you never even think about quitting as an option. You’ll go through your degree, meeting all the challenges that come along. And no matter how insurmountable the odds, you will still face them all head on.

And finally, why study? There are indeed many jobs out there that do not require degrees, but if you find a subject you absolutely love and want to know more about. Do study it, because in this day and age, when it becomes increasingly necessary to be an international citizen, your degree becomes your currency. Believe it or not, it will create options for you. Nowadays you have the option of working outside the UK, even outside of Europe. And sometimes, just creating options is key.

Post Graduate Study and Money

So I got up this morning, and the first thing I did was check my bank account as today I got paid. To my horror I received less than half of what I was paid. Income Tax, National Insurance and Student Loan deductions have all made sure that my financial status is negligible to say the least. I have my tuition fees to pay, alongside rent and of course trying to ensure I eat well (my mother is always asking if I am)
I remember very well being an undergraduate student and my financial worries then. Though I didn’t have to worry about fees. Nor about rent, as my student loan paid for that. All I had to worry about was ensuring I could pay for food and travel.
Apparently as I work for the university I study at, I’m not eligible for a Career Development Loan. I sought out Trusts etc but none could help me. In the end I’ve had to get two jobs, which so far still aren’t enough! With all the Income Tax, student loan and National Insurance deductions, it becomes harder to extol the virtues of PG study. The studying is never the problem, as I’m studying something I’m exceptionally passionate about. This, to me is the only positive right now. I love my subject and always will do. This is the only reason why I’ve not decided to pack it in and go seek out a full time job.
I have much experience in the world of work and a lot transferable skills, I’ve worked abroad as well as here in the UK. I’m international. So why am I still here?
I love pushing myself and striving to be the best I can. But, if working isn’t going to help me in the UK, I will leave here as soon as I’m done with my masters. I’ll find some place where hard work and perseverance will actually help you move forward instead help you continue marking time.
I do very much love the UK. But, if need be, I will leave here. I’ve always enjoyed travelling. I wonder which country to start with. The world is my oyster afterall. 😉

Politics/Social Responsibilties

So the Kingston University Students’ Union elections period is beginning, and I was asked by the CEO of KUSU, to give a brief statement on what I got out of my time as President of the Students’ Union. I think he wanted something off the top of my head, first thoughts etc.

I wanted to think on it for a little bit. And after some time, I came up with this:-

Beyond simply the skills I gained, chairing meetings, interviewing and selection for high power positions or even improving on my ability to communicate with individuals at different levels. It gave me a better understanding of the world around me. I have a much better understanding of my social responsibilities. I read the newspapers more and I care more. And for that alone, I think it was a worthwhile use of my time.

And some will read that and say it’s no big deal. They will argue that I should have cared about my social responsibility beforehand. And I won’t disagree with them. But, I had very little care for anything beyond ensuring that I could finish my degree and get back into the wide-world of work.

While president of KUSU I tried to stay abreast of what was going on, especially with regards to the wider effects of Higher Education issues. I was never keen on politics beforehand and I shared the views of many, that “they’re all the same so there’s no point voting for any of them”  I have since found that I have a certain appreciation for politics, though none of the main parties currently mirror any of my views. And I firmly believe that all should try to make a difference wherever they are. I got to get a better view of the big picture of things, and then all of a sudden I began to realise why each and every individual actually matters. Because of this, leaving KUSU at the end of my time of office was harder than anticipated. I came to realise that I care very much about the student body at Kingston University and I care a great deal about how the prevailing social and political issues will affect the students at Kingston.

Running for an Executive position at the Students’ Union is not for the faint of heart. It is for those of you who recognise the skills you can gain, but more importantly, for those of you that care a great deal about your fellow students. It is that very same care that will ensure that when things get challenging, you continue to push forward. When you run for an elected position, you tell people that you want to represent them. You tell them that you’re trustworthy and you tell them that you’re dependable. Ensure that you are such, before deciding to run for any position within the Students’ Union Exec.

KU PG Sets Sail

Earlier last week KU staff hosted a boat party for postgraduate students. The 13th of Dec was the date and having been present at the first such event I was not at all surprised to see so many students show up for the second.

Having finished my term as President of KUSU, I have been more than happy to jump on board to work on postgrad events.
Just like the first trip, tickets for this sold out quite quickly. Students began arriving at about 1930hrs on a cold Tuesday night and stood excitedly waiting for the boat to arrive. Once it had arrived and all had gone aboard, the party began. The ‘house’ DJ plying us with tunes we could all shake a leg to, and soon the dancefloor was full. And with a larger boat than last time, there was more room to dance, so the dancefloor stayed full for the rest of the night.

I don’t believe any of us were aware of when the boat made its turnaround at Hampton Court Palace. A few people disembarked on the return to Kingston at about 10pm. But most stayed on till almost midnight when we finally returned to Kingston.

All that I have spoken to about both boat parties had a grand time. Students and staff alike enjoyed themselves immensely.

We will be planning many more events in the future. The new year promises to be fun filled indeed. And I honestly cannot wait for it!

As a postgraduate student, if you have any thoughts as to what you would like us to host on your behalf, please let me know by emailing TJ Esubiyi at KU43118@Kingston.ac.uk

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Higher Education On The Ropes

It ‘s been an interesting last few months, to say the least!

My last blog was just before the national student demonstration in November. It’s been all systems go since then. The vote for the increase in tuition fees went through and students access to university has been stunted. UKBA have announced the results of the Tier 4 review. Here’s the link to the UKBA page: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers/points/sponsoringmigrants/eligibility/tierstudents/

With fees now to be set within a range of £6,000 – £9,000 per academic year. Putting students into record debt post-graduation, funding for University education being greatly cut, I think it is fair to say that Higher Education in England is definitely on “the ropes” and the HE landscape has changed for good. HE is in the middle of what looks like definite marketisation. Universities will now have to start looking at initiatives for further income generation. Our alumni become desperately important to us and we have to look at enterprise as a way forward.

Students will become customers and will no longer care about what our GM has termed “Collective Individualism” and will begin looking up “Compare the market” type websites all the more. They will be looking for value for money and I fear, will no longer care about the “Big Issues” as they will be paying more than they ever done. And will ask many more questions of their institutions.

So, how can Students’ Unions remain representative of their student bodies? Do we have to become simply organisations that provide needed services? What is the way forward for Students’ Unions as representative bodies? In recent months we have focussed, and rightly so, on the national education strategy. But now, we need to start paying attention closer to home. And listen, not only to the voices that shout the loudest, but also to the voices that don’t shout at all. The student who may never come to SU offices to speak to the officers, but will share his/her very valid views over a drink in the bar and the student who, roaring drunk at 3 in the morning will very candidly tell you their opinions.

All of these are valid views. I think that in the times to come, students’ unions need to become relevant to their student bodies. University Board of Governors’ will begin to pay more attention to us. They will scrutinise our accounts more and will ask a lot more questions of us. How will we prove to our institutions that we continue to remain relevant? And how can we prove that we do actually speak for the students?

In this last academic year, I’ve worked hard at building a closer relationship with the Kingston University Board of Governors. And I think it’s safe to say that the Kingston University Students’ Union boasts a closer working relationship with the University Board of Governors than we ever have. We now need to ensure that we keep that and work closer together to ensure the university keeps students’ issues as primary.

Now more than ever, institutions will look to Students’ Unions to help define what our students require. And if we cannot give coherent evidence based responses, I fear we will find ourselves quickly becoming irrelevant, and extinction is the inevitable end.

I’m thankful that Chris Dingle (Current VP Education) has been elected as the new President, to succeed me. He has a very clear route in forging forward. And has a firm grasp on our strategic goals and the ways to ensure they are met.

It’s safe to say that there are some tough times ahead for KU and KUSU alike. Now is the time to begin to work together so that we do not simply weather the coming storm, but we come out stronger than when we began.

Higher Education may be on the ropes, but it’s not out for the count.


Goodbye Social Mobility

On Tuesday I attended the graduation ceremony of students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and was immensely proud of these students, many of whom are friends. People I’ve shared time, notes and many a dancefloor with. And it was indeed a happy time for all.

This was somewhat tempered by the Dean of Faculty, Professor Martin McQuillan, who gave an impassioned speech on the humanities and the arts and the removal of provision for these by people who didn’t have to face the obstacles they’re now putting in front of today’s students. He spoke of the injustice of this, the great irresponsibility being showed by the government that proclaims “fairness for all” and then he spoke of hope. Hope in the graduands of the day, for their resilience and their mettle will help to ensure the arts and humanities do not die or simply become the domain of the higher middle class.

Never has there been such widespread fear and outrage across the board, amongst both students and staff. The picture being painted for Higher Education’s future is the bleakest we could have possibly imagined. In essence, we are being used to prop up the financial sector. And that is exceptionally irresponsible.

Yesterday the government announced a rise of tuition fees to between £6,000 and £9,000. With a claim that any institution wishing to charge beyond the £6,000 point show evidence of widening access. I wonder what more evidence they require, beyond what many institutions have already been doing? There are many institutions, Kingston, London Metropolitan and Middlesex, to name but a few that are already known for their work in widening access. So I cannot help but think this a move to create a two-tiered system, where students will then have to make University choices based on how much the degree costs. And of course the assumption will be that the more expensive the degree the better the programme, in effect marketising Higher Education. And only people from the higher echelons of society will even think of trying to gain entry to the institutions on the higher tier.

On paper, they claim that this system is more progressive. Well, students and staff across the board right now say otherwise, they’re saying this is a regressive system. This is an unhelpful system. This is a system that returns us to a time when not all could access Higher Education. Is this what the government meant when they proclaimed fair access for all? Did they really mean to say “Higher Education is not your domain” for this is the message they send out.

As a result, I call on all students, all staff, all members of the community who are as passionate about this as we are. All who are as incensed by this as we are, to come and march with us on 10 November 2010 through Central London. Join many students and staff from across the country as we proclaim and ask the government to put themselves in the shoes of the people whose lives they’re changing. More information can be found at www.demo2010.org