I woke up at about 4am on New Year’s Day. At first, I refused to get out of bed, but my mind quickly filled with a huge ‘to do’ list I had to deal with. Top of the list was my latest university assignment. I simply couldn’t sleep and feeling totally awake and with a quickened heartbeat, I got up at precisely 4.18am and set to work.
There was a vaguely ironic twist to my actions. As I was getting up, I could hear a loud New Year’s party at a neighbour’s house wrapping up.
Party aside, I often find I am at my most industrious in the early morning, and this certainly proved to be the case on this occasion. I made huge strides in the ensuing couple of hours before the family woke up.
Back to higher education to become a graduate, if not The Graduate
What I have written above amounts to a confession of a sort. I have, you see, returned to higher education. For several months now and with the support of my amazing wife and family, I have been studying for a BA(Hons) and all going to plan, a significant, mid-life career change is in the pipeline.
I am realistic to the fact various challenges lie ahead, but my long-term aim is to obtain a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). This would open numerous doors for me to work in teaching.
At this stage I’m not being too specific about which path I shall follow as there are many different options for the qualified teacher. Primary school teacher, secondary school teacher, further education, adult education, tutor, teaching English as a foreign language, the list goes on. There are a couple of options I am particularly keen on. For now, however, I am keeping my thoughts to myself as I am still figuring it all out.
I should also add that I am several years away from qualifying. This is a long-term thing that fits quite nicely with when Izzy, my youngest daughter, will start at secondary school.
How did this desire to become The Graduate come about?
I had been considering studying for a degree for a little while, but thought I’d do it in a few years time. It all came to a head in September when I was offered places to study not one but two different Masters degrees (not bad for someone who had only obtained GCSE maths a few months previously!).
I then discovered I had a problem. Two problems in fact.
Problem one: A Masters degree is incredibly sexy, but a highly specialised MA would have been useless if my aim was to go on and work in education. In fact, having a Masters without having a BA(Hons) would probably have disqualified me from studying for a PGCE.
Problem two: When I was younger, I obtained a Higher National Diploma, roughly equivalent to two-thirds of a BA(Hons) degree. This meant I could use my previous study to count towards a BA(Hons), shortening the length of time I had to study from three years to two years. The problem? There was a time limit on when I could transfer my previous study credits and time was running out.
It turned out I had to start studying in the 2021 / 2022 academic year if I wanted my previous study to count towards a degree. If I didn’t, I’d have to go right back to the beginning and start studying for a degree from scratch.
I didn’t know what to do: Masters or Bachelors? I had many sleepless nights and consulted with a few different people. Ultimately, I felt the BA was the better choice as it gave me more options.
Having studied GCSE maths via distance learning, I thought I’d study for a degree this way as well. There are many options for the distance learning student these days. Many universities have some kind of online offering.
It requires a lot of discipline, but I am really enjoying it. I’m studying two subjects, one looking at the sociology of families and young people (tying in nicely with my blogging activities) and the other is English language focused.
My position on the higher education system
This does, of course, place me in a slightly awkward position as I have not been quiet about my thoughts on the higher education system. I stand by what I have previously said: I think it is ridiculous that, in the UK in particular, kids hit the age of 18 and are expected to go to university.
Why are we not encouraging youngsters to do apprenticeships? Why not study vocational qualifications? Why not take a year or two out and work before studying? They’re corralled into an expensive education system when they’re too young to know what they want to study and it’s totally daft.
Very few youngsters are mature enough to live away from home at the age of 18. It’s at that point in life that most are, naturally, a bit directionless. They’re exploring relationships and possibly finding themselves in situations where they are exposed to drugs, alcohol and all manner of temptations.
This is when they need adult guidance. Instead, we shove them out the door to live in high density housing with other immature teenagers. Added to that, they return home weighed down with huge debts (£45,000 on average).
I genuinely feel sorry for youngsters. I think we’re doing them a disservice, but mass university education has been the accepted norm for 25 years so most parents went to university at the tender age of 18. As a result, they simply accept it and expect their offspring to do the same. I think this stance needs challenging and challenging vociferously.
What I feel I am doing is lifelong learning. After years of being my kids’ main carer, I am slowly getting to a point where they will be less reliant on me. I need to plan for the future.
In the future I’d like to do something different, and I am in a position where I can study (via distance learning) and requalify while also looking after the kids. It’s a situation many mums have faced. I simply happen to be a dad.
Until now, my Higher National Diploma (HND), a vocational qualification focused on the media industry, has served me supremely well. As it happens this is my second spell as a mature student. I didn’t go to college straight from school. When I did my HND I was in my early twenties and I believe that qualification opened more doors for me than a degree would have done.
If I wasn’t looking to change career, I probably wouldn’t be studying right now. Education is a completely different field and it’s one of the few fields where entrants probably should have a degree (or there is at least a justified argument for insisting entrants have a degree, the same cannot be said for most forms of employment). My age and my circumstances have simply come together to make this the right time for me to study for a BA(Hons). If I had done it when I was 18, and I did nearly go to university in my teenage years, I’d have messed it up.
As for my blogging activities, perish the thought I will be giving them up. I enjoy it too much. Sure, I may have to post a little less but I am going nowhere. I have, after all, got several years of study ahead of me before I can change career. The upshot is, I love blogging!
It’s going to be a busy few years so do wish me luck. If you have experience of returning to study in later life, please do leave a comment below, I’d love to know how you found it and how things worked out for you.