Phil Vincent graduates from the OU this October with a BA (Hons) in History (Open) and says the knowledge and confidence it’s given him as he approaches his 30th birthday has made a huge difference to his life. Working as a broadcast engineer for national broadcasters, Phil confesses that the subject of his degree doesn’t match with his current career, but the confidence he’s gained – a vital trait in his profession as a broadcast engineer – has helped no end and now he’s considering going on to do a Masters. Here’s his story…
It is a cliché, but it seems like yesterday that I sent off the application for my first module, but in reality it is the best part of six years ago. I’d like to say I had a grand plan in mind when I applied, but truth be told, initially I took up study as a way to fill the time between touring.
You see, back then I spent a good deal of time looking after up and coming bands who were heading out on the road for the first time. Soon enough, however, I was gripped and I found myself often trying to read text books in dressing rooms, invariably whilst the rest of the band and crew were drinking their way through the bars alcohol supplies. I swear trying to read Jean Rhys in the dressing room of the Sheffield Leadmill whilst a band thunders overhead is probably the hardest thing on earth to do!
I was 24 and living in a shared flat in Bournemouth, although I had been to university, I had dropped out to pursue my career in the music industry, and had always felt that I had something more to give academically.
The OU were great, I wasn’t earning a huge amount, and I was provided with funding to help purchase the books and a much needed computer to complete the many essays set over the courses.
‘The OU revealed itself to me as one of the most forward looking institutions I have been part of’
I was a bit worried when I started as my knowledge of the OU started and ended with dusty memories of late night TV programmes of bearded men giving lectures on obscure subjects. But, I have to say, the OU revealed itself to me as one of the most forward looking institutions I have been part of. All the course material was available online, great to put on your PC, or even your phone in these futuristic times, and tutors were easily contactable via phone, email or even in the online forums on the OU website.
Before long I got fed up of the late nights and long hours of the touring business and to say I have had a variety of jobs since, is an understatement: airline steward, IT tech support and finally broadcast engineer have all been titles I have held whilst studying for the OU, and throughout it all the OU course, although adding its own stresses, became a place where I could go and lose myself in study and forget about whatever stresses work had thrown at me.
'I found myself completing OU work in odd places'
I still found myself completing OU work in odd places. Writing an essay comparing Doctor Who and Star Trek, camped out in the back of an outside broadcast truck, whilst England Played India in a test match at The Oval, is probably one of the strangest places I think anyone could have written an essay.
The OU work, further to the academic knowledge it has imparted on me, has provided me with a confidence in my own abilities, a trait that has become hugely important in my professional career as a broadcast engineer, even though it has nothing to do with the subject of my degree.
I find myself now glimpsing my 30th birthday on the horizon, and although I am happy to have been released from the monthly assignments, I catch myself occasionally looking through the OU prospectus; the MA courses seem to look more and more inviting with every new page I turn. Another two years wouldn’t be too bad, would it?