Think of exams and you’ll probably be transported to that stiflingly hot hall with row upon row of graffiti scrawled desks you seemed to spend so many hours of your young life in. Chances are you will not picture a room with tables of ice adorned impeccably with seafood of many different varieties.
But this is the scene which greets Environmental Health students at Middlesex University, as it represents a part of their final exams.
And among their examiners is a man at the very pinnacle of his profession. Barry O’Toole, of the Fishmongers’ Company, which is one of the twelve great City Livery Companies and inspects all of the fish going into Billingsgate Market, marks students on their knowledge of the food and the safety issues surrounding it.
As an ex-Middlesex student who has made it to the top of his profession, he is able to use his expertise to benefit the next generation.
Speaking in one of the University’s state-of-the-art laboratories in its Hatchcroft Building, where the exams are held, he said the practical tests were essential to the students’ ability to progress in the Environmental Health field.
“You are preparing them for interaction with the trade outside,” he said, “They have to be able to identify what something is and say ‘I’m seizing that product’ and give the reason for their decision. They also have to identify shellfish and the processes of how it gets from the sea to the table.”
He also praised the “excellent” facilities available to students on the course at Middlesex, saying they were among the best in the country.
Middlesex University is the largest provider of environmental health education in the UK. Its range of courses are all professionally recognised and strongly vocational, with a 100 per cent graduate employment rate.