Reunited: just the business

December 17, 2004

Victor Bellanti, chief executive of Norman Hay plc, returns to Nottingham Trent University, where he studied in the 1980s

Coming back to Nottingham Trent University doesn't seem such a huge step - either psychologically or geographically - as when I first moved up to the city from Slough 25 years ago at the age of 18. I'd excelled at maths but was more interested in business.

This may be a commonplace subject now, but "business studies" was relatively new in those days. Nottingham Trent was pretty revolutionary by offering academic study and six-month industry-based work placements side by side - mine at ICI Paints and an automotive component manufacturer.

Going back, I was impressed with the portfolio of contacts that Nottingham Business School had developed across a variety of industry sectors worldwide. Things have definitely moved on and the university is as much a strong business as a modern place of education.

Elements such as group work and professional presentations seem a more vital part of the student learning experience. When I was a student I wasn't really aware of company involvement in the course or where my work placements might lead me career-wise. But this was what put me in the forefront for management roles and set me on the path to where I am today.

In my first year, I lived in "digs" in Keyworth with a few other lads from my course. We had a really good time, but it took me six months to settle into university life living ten miles out of the city. I do, however, recall a great sense of camaraderie and friendship between undergraduates and lecturers. Perhaps this was because student numbers were five times smaller in my day. Also the age gap between us and them didn't seem that great.

Meeting one of my former lecturers, David Jennings, was one of the highlights of going back. It brought back many happy memories of my time at Nottingham Trent, particularly as a member of the university rugby team and as a regular in the now extinct Wilberforce pub.

I have kept in touch with lots of my contemporaries, many of whom have gone on to be very successful. One friend, the joker of the course, had been the envy of everyone by enjoying work placements at Butlins in Skegness and at the London Rubber Company. He is now CEO of one of the world's largest communications groups. I am also married to a fellow graduate, Bernadette.

It's hard for me to judge just how different today's student experience is because I'm not sitting where they are. Teaching and learning styles appear to have changed, although my old lecturer seems to be as innovative and passionate about his work as he was when I was a student. We didn't have summer holidays because of the work placements, and I remember that the course was very intensive but we still played as hard as we worked.

I'm impressed by how much talent and opportunity there is in the Nottingham Business School. Current students seem a lot more industry-aware and focused on the outside world. The university even has a dedicated centre - The Hive - for supporting start-up businesses, giving young entrepreneurs an initial point from which to develop their ideas, something that was unheard of in my day.

I have been part of Nottingham Trent in various guises from student to alumnus to businessman, and I'm sure that I will always be.

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