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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Studying outside London

Those of us who live outside London sometimes feel a bit smug about it. After all, we generally live in houses several times bigger than the average broom cupboard and can travel around without having to stand under a stranger’s armpit on the Tube or sit in traffic jams on the M25. But, if we’re honest, there are lots of disadvantages to living outside London too. In particular, actuarial students ‘from the regions’ can face a lot more challenges in the course of their study than Londoners.Take tutorials for example. A common scenario for a ‘regional’ student is to discover that the nearest tutorials advertised for their chosen subject(s) are 200 miles away. At best these will entail travelling at anti-social hours and a shortage of sleep. But, for some students, the long journey times eat into their study-day allowance too. So what can you do to improve things for yourselves? The answer is to be a bit more active in trying to influence the choice of tutorials offered by ActEd and their location.ActEd has to plan the tutorials it will advertise a few months in advance in order to find and book appropriate venues and prepare the literature and IT systems. Typically, it decides one exam session ahead which subjects to offer, which type of tutorial to offer, and in which locations. So ActEd will soon be setting the list of courses to be offered for the September 2004 exam session.To make its decisions ActEd analyses past experience, allowing for trends and typical actuarial study paths. It keeps an eye on course material sales too, but this can be tricky as the majority of sales for the exam period in question don’t happen until after the list of tutorials has been set. ActEd appreciates that this process is not an exact science and it does its best to adjust the original tutorial listing to meet students’ actual requirements. This is done by analysing the choices and comments on our application forms.To get the right tutorials to run in the right places the obvious place to start is to try to get the original list of tutorials to be as ‘correct’ as possible. A technique which has worked reasonably well for Yorkshire is to survey the likely interest in each subject (from students at each company) and pass this on to ActEd.It’s not a perfect system, as students are asked to predict what subjects they will be studying, say, for the September 2004 session before they even have the results of the September 2003 exams, but the survey results gave ActEd more information to work with. In fact, as ActEd finds it harder to predict the subjects needed in the regions than in London, it really welcomes this additional information. Why not set up a similar system in your area? You can email your survey results to Joanna Slade at JoannaSlade@bpp.com.So, what if you get the list of advertised tutorials for an exam session and the course you want to go on isn’t there? The key thing is to make sure that you let ActEd know about it, using the tutorial application form. To maximise your chances, send it in as early as possible and try to be flexible about your requirements. You can still send in a form even if you don’t wish to attend any of the advertised tutorials. ActEd typically needs only six to eight students to be able to run a tutorial, so it’s well worth the effort.Alternatively, if some of your colleagues are planning to study the same subject as you, you could ask your employer to consider getting ActEd to run private tutorials. If there is a fairly large group of you and your company would normally pay your travel expenses, it might find this an attractive option.Of course, it may be that there simply aren’t enough students in your region who wish to study the same subject(s) as you. But you won’t know unless you try. And, with the advent of the new exam strategy, which will bring a wider choice of subjects, you may find that there are fewer students per subject in the future. This could make it even more important for you to push for what you want.Jenny Davies works for Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow in Leeds. She represented Yorkshire Actuarial Society at the Student Consultative Committee for the past four years.