I have just this week completed a degree. At the grand age of 34, I have joined a club that I never thought I would. A club that I turned my nose up at when talking to my parents and careers advisors at school. When you’re 16 and know everything, why bother going somewhere to be told what to do and learn things you’re not very interested in? Now I have finished the degree, I am planning on a Masters with an inquisitive eye towards a PhD. The degree to give its official title is BSc Combined Social Sciences (Psychology). I studied part time with the Open University.
The Open University is a fantastic organisation. Psychology interested me so I started a few modules at the age of 30 and I got hooked! I have met some amazing people over the past 4 years. People who use their spare time to learn stuff because they want to! A guy who travels across Europe to summer school to complete a part time psychology degree because he has taken up a managerial role. Mere mortals would go on a 2 day management leadership course which they would leave believing that they know everything and are ready to whip those staff into shape. Or in this case a minimum 4 year course where on leaving the University there are more questions than answers. There lies the difference between corporate and academic life, a dichotomy (I NEVER used that word 4 years ago!) that I have lived while studying and working.
Back to the people I have met. A sales director from a large company who did a degree, wrote books, started umpteen businesses after leaving corporate life – and I’m making a big deal about one degree! I only had one experience of a summer school, spending a week living at Warwick University. You can see at these events the importance of social interaction. Escaping normal lives to meet up with old friends and meet new ones to talk about new found passions and academic subjects. Tutors have been great, some telling their own Open University story, some from other universities, offering new perspectives. A particular favourite module included Saturday morning tutorials that followed up with a visit to the local pub to chat over the module content, hopes and fears about study and the world in general. I loved those chats about football, films, art, philosophy and how they all had links with our studies. Where else could you learn about the works of Marx, Smith, Bourdieu, Focault and Jason Williamson of the Sleaford Mods.
I have been lucky enough to scrape through my course on the old fees. Fees that have now trebled in price in line with brick universities. If I was starting out on this journey now I wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition fees and would never have had this new world opened up to me. Much like youngsters now leaving with colossal amounts of debt, subjects and courses cannot be studied inquisitively which lead on to other interests. I started with psychology and found out first of all what social science was and how psychology and sociology work together and in some ways contradict. This has given me a platform to continue learning and building on this knowledge.