A County Durham mum who has won a scholarship to a digital marketing Masters degree hopes it will help restart her career after devastatingly being made redundant.

Rachel McCourt has earned herself a £9,000 scholarship with Digital Knowledge Lab, which is a collaboration between York St John University and Gateshead HQ’d digital marketing specialists Mediaworks, that will see her spend 18 months studying for a Masters in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics.

Just days after hearing she’d beaten off more than 50 other eager applicants to secure the fully funded place, the 25-year-old was dealt a bitter blow with the news that her employers, Great Annual Savings, had gone into administration.

Rachel said: “It was such a crushing blow for me personally as well as for all my other colleagues, but the fact that I can now focus on my studies without the financial burden others might face in studying such a prestigious qualification is a huge silver lining.

“While I now need to find a job, there is enormous comfort that my longer-term skills and qualifications are taken care of. I’m enormously grateful to Digital Knowledge Lab, and can’t wait to start on the digital marketing modules.”

Rachel, who lives in Seaham with her partner and two-year-old daughter, won the place as part of a first-time incentive between Digital Knowledge Lab, Mediaworks and their partners Northern Housing Consortium (NHC).

Through Mediaworks’ activity with NHC and its member housing associations, they wanted to offer a fully funded place to someone currently residing under a social housing provider. Rachel says she saw the incentive on social media and believed she might stand a chance through her family’s tenancy with believe housing.

Catherine Wilmot, Executive Director (Operations and Finance) at Northern Housing Consortium said: “We are thrilled that Rachel, as a tenant of believe housing, has been successful in her application for this Masters programme. In her application and interview she clearly demonstrated both her passion and enthusiasm for the opportunity and a track record of commitment and achievement in previous work and training undertaken. Additionally, in the spirit of our own NHC Unlocking Success tenant training bursary scheme, this Mediaworks-funded scholarship offers her a unique opportunity to access training and potential career development opportunities, which might not otherwise have been readily available to her. We wish Rachel every success in her studies!”

Rei Khan, Course Director at Digital Knowledge Lab added: “I am extremely excited to welcome Rachel onto our industry-leading masters programme. Rachel stood out throughout the application process and impressed us at the final stages, clearly communicating her passion for marketing and her commitment to ongoing learning.”

Rachel spent more than six years with Great Annual Savings, becoming marketing advisor there where she oversaw a range of tasks, including copy writing, social media, design and website management.

She added: “This was my first job out of college, and I have learned lots, but it was a period where I was looking to extend my marketing understanding in a digital environment, so I’m really keen to learn from others who are experts in their field. I know this will stand me in great stead in achieving my long-term career goals.

“The selection process was very nervy as I’d never really been interviewed for more than six years, but I’m so proud of myself to have secured the scholarship.”

More information on Digital Knowledge Lab’s fully remote courses, which include Masters degrees and short courses, can be found at https://digital.yorksj.ac.uk/