Student Union

When you enrol with us, you automatically become a member of the College’s Student Union.

Run by students, the Union exists purely to improve your experience as a student both academically and socially, and make your time with us exciting and memorable.

Get involved in College life

There are many ways you can get yourself involved in College life, meet other students, make your voice heard and gain important experience to put on your CV. When you enrol with us, you automatically become a member of the College’s Student Union which is part of the National Union of Students (NUS). Run by students, the Union exists purely to improve your College experience both academically and socially and make your time with us exciting and memorable. This membership gives you access to advice and information, discounts on parking, shopping, stationery and many other useful benefits to make living on a student budget easier.

TOTUM cards
Totum logo

As you are a student at the College, you are entitled to purchase a Totum (NUSExtra card) for £14.99 for 1 year or £24.99 for 3 years. This is a must for all students who want to get radical discounts in hundreds of outlets. You can purchase your card online.

TOTUM is the UK's number one student discount card and app. It is the new name for the NUS extra student discount card and your TOTUM membership opens up a world of brilliant student discounts, offers and vouchers on your everyday essentials, must-have gear and luxury items.

In store and online, TOTUM puts over 350 UK student discounts and offers right where you want them – in your pocket. And TOTUM is the only student discount platform endorsed by the National Union of Students (NUS).

There are lots of discounts available depending on your type of membership, from a range of famous online and high street brands and local independents.

TOTUM also is available with PASS-accredited proof of age ID, perfect for proving you're over 18 on a night out.

It’s your Student Union…

…and that means you can take an active part in shaping it. You can put yourself forward for to be an Executive Officer in the annual elections. We encourage you to develop clubs and societies, organise trips, parties and various other leisure and sporting activities.

If you are elected as a student union officer you will be entitled to get a Totum card free. As an Executive Officer you will have the opportunity to attend the annual NUS conference at our expense which can be held anywhere in the British Isles. This will give you the chance to interact with over 500 SU officers. The Student Union also runs various charity events and awareness campaigns, so keep your eyes out and get involved.

At the start of the year, each course will elect a Course Representative, who is invited to attend monthly meetings with the various College Departments and Senior Leadership Team to discuss their opinions and suggestions on behalf of your whole course. Remember, it’s your College and we want you to have a voice in how things happen here! Recently, along with the Student Union, the Course Reps have played a major part in securing parking discounts in Southend, improving the College’s WiFi, ensuring that all courses have all of the relevant equipment that is needed and making sure that prices in the canteen are kept low enough for students to afford.

We are proud of our students and encourage you to gain skills that go beyond your qualifications. We offer you the chance to contribute to College life, helping out with internal College events such as Freshers’ Fairs, Open Days and Award ceremonies. As a student union officer you will also get paid an hourly rate for work that you do for the student union.

In short, being a student at South Essex College is your opportunity to play an active role in our community, make friends, learn new things and ensure your voice is heard.

Check out the Student Union's Facebook page.

Success stories

Georgia Nichols

Georgia Nichols

Course studied

My greatest achievement so far, is when I spent six months in the Royal Opera House

My name is Georgia Nichols ,I am 23 and in my second year of the Costume Construction BA course, and I am hoping to achieve a Level 3 Diploma in Garment Making.

I am currently doing an apprenticeship, working at the Royal Opera House in the ladies costume production workroom. My job requires making costumes for new opera and ballet productions at the Royal Opera House. I applied for the apprenticeship when I saw it online. At my interview, I did some simple sewing tasks and brought in a portfolio of a few things I had made. There's a wide variety of types of costumes that we make, some days we're all working on tutus and some days they are big ballgowns! 
Before my apprenticeship, I was working an unrelated administration job and taught myself how to sew for fun during lockdown. The apprenticeship gave me an opportunity to enter into my dream career, which I didn't think would be possible without doing a four-year university degree.
I chose to study at South Essex Colleges Group because the Costume Construction BA course is closely tied to the Royal Opera House, which is why it's the course the apprentices are put on so it gives you incredible opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
I've learned a lot of new techniques during my time at college. It's really useful to get as many different types of guidance as possible. It's really important to have multiple different methods of doing things, taught by a wide diversity of different people, both in the workroom and at college. I like to pick and choose which methods I want to use in my work, and it makes me a better maker.

The best thing about doing higher education is the space to experiment and ask questions to further my craft. Taking the time to really understand things is really important for my learning. I've learned a really wide array of technical sewing skills which have proved really valuable every day, both from college and my workplace. Working across both environments has also given me experience in adapting to different work places and styles, my teacher will do something different to my workroom manager, so I get to experience both sides of that and broaden my knowledge.
My greatest achievement so far, is when I spent six months in the Royal Opera House men's workroom, and just completed an 11-week tailoring unit in college, and I'm really proud of the advancements I've made in tailoring specifically since I started my apprenticeship. It's a tricky craft, and I really didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I do, but it's my favourite part of costume now!
I'm looking forward to freelancing after I graduate in August this year. I want to get as much experience as possible, and I'm excited to branch out into doing some film costume as well as continue my theatre journey.

Jordan Smee My Story

Jordan Smee My Story

Course studied

My greatest achievement so far has been my interview with Lv.80, it was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t ready for the project I had released at that point to gain so much traction and gain their attention

My name is Jordan Smee, I am 25 years old, I studied Computer Games Development at University Centre South Essex from 2018 until 2020 and this is my story.

I was born and raised in Essex to a middle class family, in the countryside of the Dengie Area.

During my time at the college between 2015-2017 while I was doing my two years BTEC course, I was encouraged by the head of the games course at the time to consider staying on at the college to continue into the university course, and after reviewing a number of options within other universities I decided to heed that advice, as at the time the university offered a more broad course structure to some of the others which had more narrow and closely defined subjects. This was useful because at the time of choosing I had little real knowledge of the industry and didn’t know where I wanted to go within it.

During my time at the university, I had a genuinely great experience. From the moment I joined, to the moment I left, I was supported by both the tutors and by my peers, and although I ended my time at the university at home due to the pandemic. Before that time I learned plenty and grew both as a creative and as a person.

The course lead was phenomenal at ensuring we were as prepared as possible, and taking a technical minded focus enabled me, who granted was more artist focused, to broaden my skillset and give me a chance to learn and explore other avenues within game development that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to learn or capitalise on. In tandem to this, the events and industry connection we had and used in our visit to Bossa Studio did a great job and keeping me invested and in tune with some of the expectations people were expecting from within the industry.

Within my time at the university I was given the chance to broaden my skillset and explore the various different ways in which games can be made and how to approach that. The course primarily takes a technical focus the game development and so coding, tools programming etc. take presidency but it doesn’t mean we were limited to these points, instead these were usually pathways to lead us to explore other options, coding could lead into shader creation and understanding the mix between technical and artistic pursuit, tools programming gave us faster pipelines which could be expanded to create generative tools in Blender or Maya.

These skills have given me a solid baseline upon which I can now specialise and focus in on the parts of my industry that I love, and with those other skills in toe it means I am a more capable developer and can aid in more cases than I can’t and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the time I had to gain those skills.

Since completing my course at the university I have gone on to publish an interview of my work and process in a well-known game development website and organisation that help to share information around the industry from development logs to interviews. I have also gone on to work with Surgent Studios a transmedia company that is currently working in partnership with EA Originals on an unannounced video game project.

I also recently joined the Grads in Games organisation as an industry advocate, helping to get more up and coming graduates into the industry.

I am currently working with Surgent Studios. I am a technical artist which requires me to act as the bridge between both the programming/design teams and the art team. This means that I will be doing a variety of shader creation, tool generation for artists, optimisation of assets and materials alongside implementations and blueprint work to ensure visual consistency. I have also recently taken on a number of VFX pieces, and thus in that I also create new VFX for various aspects of our game.

I had previously worked freelance both at an indie company and a modding project, Black Clover Games and Beyond Skyrim. From there I did some minor contract work and during the spring of 2021 I was approached for the position of Technical Artist for Surgent and applied and was lucky enough to get into the company.

Doing higher education means you can gain a better understanding and a broaden your skills for the industry you want. Additionally, if your course is able and can get you to industry events, these events can enable you to make numerous connections within the fields you are aiming for. I’ve known a number of current and past students already in the short time I’ve been in the industry who know a number of my colleagues due to events they’ve been able to go to, and I know that this has enabled those students to progress further than those who have not made those connections.

I also think for those who do pursue further or higher education, the education itself should inspire you to do additional work on yourself at home or wherever you are. Courses can only teach so much and while that could be seen as a negative, it can also be an impetus for a student to go on and learn things that have been missed or get answers to questions that the subject just doesn’t or can’t answer yet.

My time at the university really helped my confidence, I have never been the most confident person in the world, but being able to chat with other people who shared my interests but could also be critical of my work and enable me to keep growing both as a creative and a person, it massively helped me figure out myself and where I wanted to be in the fields I was interested in.

I’d recommend the UCSE for those who want to gain a baseline skillset that could enable them to specialise in any field that then takes their interest. Having an overall understanding of your subject will let you more accurately decide what area you want to pursue.

My greatest achievement so far has been my interview with Lv.80, it was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t ready for the project I had released at that point to gain so much traction and gain their attention. The interview was great and I’m very proud of the published work.

I’m looking forward to the eventual release of the project I’m working on now, and in the future I plan to continue to just make interesting and exciting games that will give people new experiences.

Will Thatcher

Will Thatcher

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients.

My name is Will Thatcher, I am 28 years old and I studied BA Graphic Design and Illustration at South Essex College until July 2023 after graduating with a first class, and this is my story.

I wasn’t a big fan of school when I was younger, so I did a Business Admin apprenticeship in London. I then stayed at that company for another four years working in IT but decided it wasn’t for me. I have always been passionate about art and design, so I came to South Essex college to pursue a more creative career. I first enrolled on the Access to HE Art & Design course for a year, which helped me solidify my choice of graphic design.

I have just finished a six-month internship as a Graphic Designer at West Ham United FC organised through the college. It was part-time, so I was lucky enough to be able to do this alongside my studies and continued this a few months after graduation. Working at a Premier League club was an unforgettable experience, and I learnt so much from it. I am very grateful to those involved, and I still can’t believe it happened.

I have just landed a job as a Graphic Designer at IMG | Seven League. They are a consultancy and digital marketing agency working with major sports brands such as the NFL, Premier League and NBA to increase fan engagement and attract new audiences.

My job involves working within the design team to come up with creative concepts for both client and internal briefs, such as social media campaigns, and producing exciting graphics to be used by the clients. Sport is super visual, and I get to work with different clients, each with unique identities, so no job is the same.

Having to give up my job to study full-time meant I knew I had to make myself as employable as possible. The great thing about Graphic design is that you can combine it with any passion. I am obsessed with sports, so this became the focus of most of my work, leading me to be selected for my West Ham internship. I also reached out to various football clubs for freelance work and developed passion projects. It was great for my portfolio and ultimately secured my current job. My advice to anyone studying for a creative degree is to push yourself and focus on a specific area/industry you would like to work in. It will make you stand out from the crowd.

I chose to study at South Essex because they offer a variety of courses on my doorstep. It allowed me to study while living at home, close to my family and friends. I also loved how diverse the college is, and I have made friends from all different backgrounds and ages. Enrolling on the Access to HE Art & Design course enabled me to try many mediums before making my choice.

Studying on my course allowed me to gain insights into the industry from my experienced lecturers and guest speakers. I learned design principles and essential skills such as Adobe Illustrator and printing methods.

The best thing about doing higher education was that I had the freedom, time, and space necessary to develop my knowledge and skills while under the guidance of my lecturers. It also gave me a lot of focus, which I may have struggled with if I had self-taught myself outside of my job.

I had no graphic design or media option at school, so everything was new, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I now consider myself skilled in them, but like everyone, I am still learning new things every day. We also learned how to present more effectively in crits to my peers and open myself up to feedback. Responding to feedback is a crucial skill in the creative industry, and the course provides a supportive and encouraging environment to help develop this.

The college provides access to Apple Macs with an Adobe Creative Cloud, which I previously had never used before. Although they are not absolutely necessary, it was good to learn how to use this industry-standard equipment and software. There are also brilliant printing facilities.

I would recommend South Essex College because it is a good option for anyone living locally who wants a supportive environment to learn at their own pace. A smaller number of students on each course also allows more interaction with your lecturer. You would rarely get this at larger institutions, and I don't think I would be at the same level I am elsewhere.

Coming here has massively helped me with my confidence. Before I came here, I wasn’t sure where life was going, but I realised it was the best decision I've made. Like anyone, I still have days of self-doubt, but these are much rarer now due to the strides I'm making and the encouragement of others.

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients. I always knew I wanted to work for major brands. I still have to pinch myself.

I want to continue working in sports and have ambitions to be a creative director one day, as I enjoy motivating others and hearing other perspectives and ideas.