The access route to success

A not untipical approach to HIgher Education at a late stage in life.

As a regular reader of the Hoot I recently came across the piece about the Access Module.  It reminded me of my journey with the Open University – a journey which I had never expected to make during a long life.  A bit boring to begin with but stick with me as I take you on my odyssey.

I hope what follows holds your attention or  I will have wasted my  time and, more importantly, yours. The lesson begins with a few statistics relevent to my life line.  

In 1955/56 only 11% of the relevant population obtained 5 or more ‘O’ Levels at Grade A – C.  (Bolton, 2012).

In that same period only 3.% of the relevant population achieved 3 or more A Levels.  (Bolton, 2012). 

In the early 1960s only 4% of the population went to University compared with 40% in today’s times (Liz Lightfoot, 2016).

I have cited the full references for these statistics so that anyone interested might then comprehend the scale of change in access (no pun intended) to higher education in my life time.

So that is the boring bit out of the way and I can begin to describe my odessy. 

At the outset let me set the record straight.  I am approaching my 80th, birthday early in 2021.  I came from what was then a genuine ‘working class’ family, my father being a coal miner.  I left school a long, long time ago with 4 ‘O’ Levels.  

What have I done in life?  At 19 years of age I was appointed a Police Constable and went out into the big, wide world.  During my 30 years service I had a hundred and one experiences of life and people.  I walked the streets and spoke to beggars, glue sniffers, prostitutes and the occasional upstanding citizen.  But I also found myself in various committees eventually leading up to meetings with the Home Secretary, other senior members of the Government, senior police officers and even the Local Government Committee of the Trades Union Council.

It was meeting all these successful people which ignited a desire in me to emulate them, especially in terms of their education.  I could see that they belonged to a ’club’ which did not admit the likes of me.

If only life was that simple.

I worked another 17 years when I found myself in situations similar to those I have described – just a different environment.  I ceased working when I reached retirement age and the following years were filled with pleasurable activities and the desire slipped away.

So finally we get to the point.

In 2017 I found myself with 24 hours a day to fill.  I examined various options, none of which really appealed to me.  Then friends, who were in the ‘club’ (not that way), suggested that now might be the time to pursue further education.  So I knocked on the door of the Open University and they welcomed me with open arms – or was it the satisfaction of another fee?  Jesting aside, I was taken under the wing of the Open Degree and advised to take an Access Module.

Am I glad I did.  I started off badly, writing assignments much as I write this piece.But with gentle persuasion and encouragement I managed to get through this introduction to academic life.  Now I am entering my Level 3 and hoping to complete my degree by May/June next year.

That’s a lot of words to simply say to anyone thinking of following suit that if I can do it so can you.

If you have reached this point then thank you for your patience.


Bolton, P. (2012) Education: Historical Statistices. House of Commons Library,  London accessed, 28 September 2020.

Lightfoot, L. (2016)  The Student Experience – then and now, The Guardian, London, accessed,it%20comes%20at%20a%20cost., 28 September 2020.

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