A city phone shop worker poised to quit her studies at a university was able to complete her degree back home in the rural Scottish Borders with The Open University (OU), after a chance conversation with a customer.
Jade Taylor collected her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Social Sciences degree at a ceremony in Glasgow, cheered by the OU staff member who inspired her change of path.
And she will start a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work with the OU, sponsored by Scottish Borders Council, in January 2023.
“After completing my first two years at a university in Edinburgh, I decided living in the city wasn’t for me and I was losing interest in my course due to money stress,” Jade says. “So, I decided I was going to quit after completing my second year.
“On my last ever shift in the phone store on Princes Street, my last customer of the day came in and I remember staying back a little later to serve her.
“I am naturally a very chatty person so we spoke for ages and I told her about quitting uni etc.
I was awarded the credit transfer – two years’ worth from my original university - and managed to go straight into stage three at the OU, which was the equivalent to third year of uni.”
“At that point I didn’t even know the OU existed (I wish it was spoken about more during high school!).
“The customer told me all about the OU and how it worked, and specifically told me about credit transfer.
“As soon as I got home I told my mum all about it and I looked into the transfer.
“Luckily I was awarded the credit transfer – two years’ worth from my original university - and managed to go straight into stage three at the OU, which was the equivalent to third year of uni.
“That was in 2019. I then went on to complete the whole of stage three and I completed the course in 2021.”
A Part-Time Fee Grant funded Jade’s OU studies. She achieved her degree while working full time, and through the pandemic.
“It was certainly a challenge at times, and specifically at one point in 2020 where I was also studying a 12-week introduction to counselling course with my local college,” she says.
“However, I put the time in that was needed and ensured to set time aside for myself, and it all worked out.”
Jade of Hawick, currently an Administration Assistant for Public Protection at Scottish Borders Council, will start a social work trainee post at the local authority in January 2023, with her sights set on becoming a social worker.
“I started my job in August 2021 within public, adult and child protection. This sparked a large interest for me in social work and I have made so many great connections within that field,” she says.
Whenever I see that certificate hanging on my wall I am just so proud of myself for completing those four years.”
Through a second chance encounter, Jade has learnt that the customer she spoke with - and who inspired her during her studies - was Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Head of Social Work in Scotland at the OU.
Jade says: “Had I not met her that day, I wouldn’t have finished my degree.”
Jade was awarded a Diploma for her first two years of university study, and now on building this up to achieve her Social Sciences degree, says: “I don’t feel I am a great academic, and certainly wasn’t a straight A student.
“Whenever I see that certificate hanging on my wall I am just so proud of myself for completing those four years.”
She adds: “I am very excited to do the postgraduate course and so thankful my degree allowed for me to do this.
“My future ambition is to hopefully be a successful social worker in the children and families department.”
To anyone thinking of studying with the OU, she advises: “Do it. Be prepared to put the time aside weekly.
“It is all worth it in the end and is a really great way to study if you require flexibility!
“I truly wish The Open University was more spoken about during high school, especially for students who would love to get their degree, but maybe aren’t in the position to move away for university.
“If the OU was highlighted more during school, it would give a lot more people a chance!”