Looking up a mast with the sails of a sailing boat in blue skies

Formed in 1970 by some of Plymouth’s earliest graduates in Nautical Studies, PYNDA – the Plymouth Nautical Degree Association – is a network of graduates spanning all levels of the maritime sector. 

From new entrants to influential business leaders, its membership has grown to around 400 individuals who are in regular contact with the University, and each other, through events and advice networks. 

Invenite met with some members to find out more.

Why did you choose to come to Plymouth?

Ian: I was living in East Devon and went to A level college at Tiverton. I was 18 when I came to what was then Plymouth Polytechnic and was (and still am) obsessed with sailing (dinghies and sailboards) and that was the main driver. Oh yes, and I thought the course looked interesting!

Katerina: I come from Chios Island – the land of captains and shipowners! My family is into shipping and trading, but at that time there were no shipping studies available in Greece. So, I had two options: Plymouth and Cardiff. I did my first year at the University of Cardiff, but the course didn't interest me and I asked to be transferred to the second year of the BSc in Maritime Business with Maritime Law at Plymouth.

Erik: I was studying a nautical degree in Haugesund together with both Mathias and Simon. I chose Plymouth because it had a long background within maritime studies. I wanted to learn much more especially about commercial shipping, and the masters programme and the University are recognised in the shipping environment in Norway.

Mathias: I was living in Bergen at the time, and I chose Plymouth because I got a good impression of the University and its maritime reputation. I was also eager to study in a foreign country, get to know a new culture and build new relationships.

Simon: Plymouth offered an interesting programme compared to other universities. It’s also a city with an old and impressive shipping heritage, and I saw it as a privilege to study international shipping in such a maritime environment and at the same time learn the English culture and language.

David: The BSc Nautical Studies course was in its infancy when I was a student and was only offered by about four colleges nationwide. At that time, Plymouth was about to evolve from a college of further education to a polytechnic with student numbers of only 3,000. I chose Plymouth because of its long history of teaching nautical subjects and the city and surrounds appeared to be a good environment in which to study. Also, Plymouth City Council offered a full education and maintenance grant, the latter of which was sufficient to make it possible to maintain a frugal way of life.

Aerial view of Plymouth Sound
Aerial shot of Plymouth Sound
Aerial view of Plymouth Sound

What are your abiding memories of your time here?

David: The principal students were serving Merchant Navy Deck Officers in their twenties, and all of us had a desire to further our education beyond the seagoing Certificates of Competency, which were necessarily ship operating specific. As a group we all had the same working experience of living at sea and the on-board operation of ships. The lectures were given by lecturers, the majority of whom had served in the Merchant Navy or marine-related industry. I think that as we were, in the main, all seafarers, a stronger sense of camaraderie was formed within our own group for social events such as hiring a boat with a bar and jazz band to cruise up the Tamar on a Friday evening in early summer.

Ian: The Sea Anglers on a Friday night, Bigbury Bay, and sailing in Plymouth Sound! Also, Sid Harley, Craig Rich (yes, the weatherman) and Brian Yolland, three inspirational lecturers that helped shape my future.

Mathias: I only have good memories from my time in Plymouth. Ever since the first few weeks there I felt like it was the right choice for me. The lecturers, fellow students, and the city itself proved to be perfect and inspiring.

Katerina: Oh my! I could write a book on my memories!!! Let us rewind to my days at Plymouth. The first time I came to Plymouth was in September 1993. We decided with my brother, who was studying in the UK as well, to come to Plymouth from Athens by car. I had never seen the place before. It was love at the first sight! I do not want to forget my friends, the houses I lived, barbeques we had, the Uni, the professors, the parties, Mutley Plain, the Hoe and Barbican, the city centre, the coffee shops. I will never forget how proud I was to set up the University of Plymouth Hellenic Society; Professor Michael Roe and his yellow Mini Cooper; Sydney Harley, pretending that he was the ship in his Maritime Law lectures!

David: I particularly enjoyed the college being within the city centre and being able to walk up to the Hoe during the lunchtime break. Excursions out to the moors were memorable, in particular the Royal Oak at Meavy and the Prince of Wales pubs at Princetown. I recall driving out to Burrator Reservoir to sit in the car and revise in peace and quiet!

Why did you join PYNDA?

David: PYNDA was founded when I was a student at Plymouth! I went to the inaugural meeting at which it was agreed to set it up, in 1971 or 1972, I think. There was a strong feeling that our careers would benefit if we were able to keep in touch as most of us were intending to enter the maritime field. A few people had some grandiose ideas that it might become a learned body, a bit like the newly formed Nautical Institute. I just wanted it to be an effective club that enabled us to keep in touch and share experiences.

Simon: Quite simply, I joined PYNDA to maintain my connections and to connect with other Plymouth alumni.

Katerina: Shipping is an international business. The world is a maritime village and we know each other. I wanted to meet with my professors and classmates. I wanted to create for Plymouth the culture it deserved – the ‘HE/ SHE IS ONE OF US’ culture.

Erik: I joined it because I want to get the most out of my maritime career. Building a solid network is very important in this business and I think PYNDA is a solid tool for this.

Ian: I wanted to keep in touch with my course mates and was also well aware that it helped from a career perspective. And it has (but not maybe in the way I thought it would!)

How does PYNDA help you? Or are you more strongly motivated to help others?

Ian: PYNDA works as a great network of really useful contacts who are all prepared to help each other. It really does work both ways.

Katerina: Yes – though for me, it really is about helping others.

Mathias: It’s all about the networking and being able to build new relations for me.

A closeup shot of the deck of a sailing yacht with a rope on.
Close up of a compass on sailing yacht
Close up of rope on sailing yacht

So, on that note, what do you think the secret is to its longevity?

Ian: Its members! It has essentially created its own ‘culture’ whereby more experienced (and longer in the tooth) members feel a responsibility to help the younger ones, and they in turn feel that they are part of something ‘important and helpful’ and as such are prepared to reach out for help and listen to advice.

David: I think that the original concept was that students from all years could have a centre of contact of a larger group of students/graduates, as opposed to only their own year group. I think that appeals to the students attending maritime courses each year. Credit must also be given to the lecturers over the years who have also encouraged students to join. Going forward, I believe that the organisation will continue to flourish.

Katerina: I think it’s connected to the specialist nature of the shipping courses. First of all, not many universities teach them, and most importantly not many have the tradition, the knowledge and the ability to deliver them successfully. In this case, we have great graduates serving in top positions all over the world.

What is your impression of the university now? Is it important to you that its marine and maritime reputation has continued to grow?

Simon: Yes – it’s important to me that the University is contributing to research, providing expert knowledge in articles, and commenting on occurrences in the news as they happen. All of this strengthens its reputation.

Erik: Absolutely. I have a very positive impression of the University and I could easily recommend it to future students. And yes, it is absolutely important for me working in the sector.

Ian: I have to be honest here and admit that I am quite disappointed with the way higher education has gone (generally, not just at Plymouth). Although the resources and facilities at what is now the University of Plymouth are fantastic in comparison to my days at Plymouth Polytechnic, it has come at a cost to some of its identity.

Katerina: Plymouth has had a huge impact on who I am now. Indeed, it is of the highest importance that the University’s maritime reputation has and will continue to grow. And when I revisited Plymouth during my PhD, it was such an experience! I walked again in the footsteps of my youth. The city and the University have changed much but not beyond recognition. Every place hides a memory. I am so proud to say that I am part of the University's shipping heritage.

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