Explore Themes

A Lifechanging Experience

(page 1 of 2)

The impact of an Open University PhD on our graduates

Skip to description
Professor Bill Morris: "there was no sense of Higher Education at all in my family, none"
Duration: 00:01:20
Date: 2021
Dr Joan Whitehead: "it was a school with a mission"
Duration: 00:01:07
Date: 2021
Dr Ken Richardson: "so I was kicked out of school at 15 and went to work in a factory"
Duration: 00:02:34
Date: 2021

Where Did Our Pioneers Come From?

The reason we were able to find the 12 interviewees was that they had a sufficiently high profile in later life to have a significant online footprint, but the start of their journeys were often very different.

Most were born in the 1940s and early 1950s and many report being a product of the 1944 Education Act’s creation of the 11+ and grammar schools. Ten of the group identify themselves as from a working-class background and five of these highlight how passing the 11+ and going to grammar school led to them being the first of their immediate family to go on to higher education and the first of their generation to experience social mobility through education, eloquently recounted by Bill Morris in his video clip with his comment "there was no sense of Higher Education at all in my family, none". Alternately, Stephen Potter, Bill Morris and Joan Whitehead spent happy and productive years at state comprehensive schools and found them to be encouraging and supportive of their plans for higher education. Joan enthusiastically portrays her West Yorkshire state secondary school's dedication to supporting the education of its students in the audio clip below, describing "it was a school with a mission" amongst other things.

Coming from middle class families, Oliver Boyd-Barrett was also the first of his family to go on to university whilst Don Aldiss was one of the few whose siblings and indeed his mother, all experienced a university education.  Most of the cohort studied for their undergraduate degree either straight from secondary school or after a brief period of work. Ken Richardson’s journey was a little closer to the imagined, 'typical' Open University undergraduate. Ken's video excerpt vividly describes his almost epic educational journey, in that he came from a pit village near County Durham, and started work at 15, in his words "so I was kicked out of school at 15 and went to work in a factory". He joined the RAF at 17, was encouraged to take O and A levels in his early 20s and went on to higher education and then a PhD.

A Lifechanging Experience (page 1 of 2)