"The core reason that any of us is here is to learn at a high level
and to achieve things that we never dreamt that we would do in life and
in a very creative environment."
Interview with Mike
What were you doing before you came to university? Why make the
change to study at university?
I left school at 15½ and in those days it was a different planet altogether.
It really was. And over the years certain experiences, for example, in the 60s I
bummed around Europe and in my travels I met many university-educated people. In
youth hostels at night over bread and wine, like you do, I found myself engaging
in topics at any level with them and after that experience I began to question.
You are brought up believing that people who own houses and went to
university lived on a different planet. After retirement I took up part-time
work through agencies and in the course of this I met quite by chance a lady
from the Middle East. One evening she invited me for a meal and in the course of
the conversation I expressed great regret. She herself had BA, MA and so forth.
And expressing my regret, she looked at me and said, "Well Michael, you must go.
Phone the University this week." "Yes, alright", I said. So I did. I spoke to
someone here. This was in late 2007, by the way. To everyone I spoke said "when
did you last have any full-time education?" and I responded something like "150
years ago" and I was invited to take up my case with the institute, the college.
So two years college access course, and, miracle of miracles, I’ve arrived!
What fears did you have and how did you overcome them?
Examinations! At my last permanent school, which was an old Victorian pile, I
had this thing about sitting down in a classroom and told that one must answer
these questions etcetera, etcetera and my mind used to go blank. I mean if I
left my name on the question paper I figured I was doing quite well. So this
formed in my mind, this early twentieth century creation called a school master
says to you "You’re useless boy", it sticks. You think, "Yeah, I must be."
So the one fear I had, as I looked forward with great enthusiasm to coming
here, I knew that it would involve examinations. So I think the way I overcame
them was by listening to other students, especially second year students in my
art department or in the film department, because I am doing a joint honours
degree. And I listened to what they said and one of things they always said was
"There will be revision lectures. The academic staff would give you the
opportunity". So I grabbed them, as it were.
And I did my best to revise, to revise, to revise. I was conscious of the
fact that I had been thinking in so many different ways over the years, but now
to apply them in a formal academic sense, even though I had done two years in
college, this is another situation altogether. This is more. It is of course
naturally enough by its very nature at a higher level. So I revised and revised
When I walked into that examination room for the first time: numbers on the
desks, row after row after row. And to listen to the senior invigilator advise
these assembled students about the various offences if they were so engaged...
If you want to go to the loo, you are marched there and back and so forth. I
thought "my God, this is terrifying". But then I suddenly realised, it wasn’t.
Something had clicked and...Curiously, I answered the questions. I answered all
the questions that I needed to answer. And that’s how I overcome the fear of
examinations. Of course, for the record, I’m still waiting for the results.
What has been most challenging and how have you addressed this?
I think the most challenging for me has been engaging with information
technology. I’ve had a computer at home for a few years – a laptop. There were
certain ways we did things at college which I was beginning to become accustomed
to, but there were other things that are practised here that I found a bit
tricky and I will illustrate that by one thing, and one thing only, and that is
submitting essay coursework online. That was the most difficult thing. And I
think the way I addressed it was by making a very big nuisance of myself with
the IT helpdesk. Thus far, I’ve survived.
How have you made friends?
I made some friends at college and some of those have come here with me, so
to speak, so there was the basis of friendship already. Also, I had a very good
start when we had the Housewarming weekend at the University, which was a
marvellous inspirational thing, as far as I am concerned, because it gave mature
students the possibility, the opportunity, of having a taste of campus life. And
it was these experiences, bringing them forward, and becoming involved in one or
two activities around the campus, that I’ve made a number of friends here. So,
we were lucky. I was lucky.
I consider myself very fortunate, as I say, having a head-start, bringing
friends from college onto the campus, onto the University, and making more while
I was here by simply engaging with the campus community. And that has been great
fun and continues to be great fun.
How have you found being involved in the mature students' society
Being a member of a society creates a natural social group. There is a
tendency among mature students to engage at a mature level. And it brings one,
as an individual, more and more into the campus community. And I believe that
I’ve reached a point now where I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. The
informality of that response, I should qualify.
The core reason that any of us is here is to learn at a high level and to
achieve things that we never dreamt that we would do in life and in a very
creative environment like university campus. And being involved with the mature
students’ society has been a great help in carrying this forward. I’m conscious
on a daily basis of getting encouragement from people just by being here and
engaging with them. And I in turn have been encouraging them. It’s a two-way