My aim on entering Higher Education was not to enhance my career prospects but to experience education for its own sake.

When I arrived at City College in Coventry for my first day as a mature student I felt a combination of excitement and nerves.  I was then 51 years old, had left school a very long time ago, and had no idea what I was about to experience.

However over the next few weeks I relaxed into the role of being a student, helped in no small amount by the brilliant teaching staff, and a sense of friendship and camaraderie quickly developed among our extraordinarily diverse group of students.  As was to become a regular part of my studies I was the oldest person in the class and yet at no point did I ever feel out of place, whether initially at City College or later on when my student life moved over to Warwick University itself.

The introduction to student life at City College was gentle enough to get me started on academic life, while simultaneously offering enough of a challenge to keep me fully engaged.  Progression through the course was facilitated by a remarkable effort from the staff, who displayed extraordinary dedication to ensure that everyone on the course received a personalised experience designed to facilitate the maximum chance of progression. 

Unlike the majority of my student colleagues my aim on entering Higher Education was not to enhance my career prospects but to experience education for its own sake.  I quickly grew to love learning new things and decided that on completion of my BA degree I would carry on at Warwick and study for an MA.  This went far better than I had anticipated and my growing interest in aspects of society and social behaviour meant that I felt the need to investigate the possibility of studying for a PhD.

While studying at Warwick I still had access to CLL staff and facilities and received very helpful advice from the CLL regarding my PhD application, in particular from Professor Will Curtis and Dr Steve Gascoigne, who provided me with two of the necessary references for my funding application and in the latter case advised me regarding my actual proposal. My application for a funded PhD was successful and I began the work required to finesse my proposal and then start my research.  My research was helped enormously by the very good grounding in Research Methods that I had received from my very early days of 2+2 study.

All was going incredibly well until the coronavirus pandemic arrived and my primary research location, the National Archive at Kew, was shut down.  I did what I could without this facility but after almost a year of being unable to do anything constructive and being a member of a higher-risk group I inevitably began to consider the way forward.  The idea of regularly travelling to and across London on public transport was a complete anathema and after much thought I decided to withdraw from my course.

However that is not the end of my story.  In my early time at City College I was finding my studies so rewarding that I recommended to my wife that she sign up for the same course.  She did this and after receiving her BA she went on to study for an MA at the CLL.  This led to employment as a fully qualified Social Worker earning in excess of £ 30,000 per year.  It is therefore completely true that my initial enrolment at the CLL has been a significant life event for our family and one that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

About the author

This blog was written by Alan Barrett-Evans, a former 2+2 student and current PhD student at Warwick.

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