A New Year’s Resolution to challenge himself more led to Stuart Borland deciding to study for a degree with the OU and has helped him develop a new career.
After finding himself in a “personal and professional rut”, Stuart Borland from Benderloch, near Oban, decided he needed to make a big change in his life.
He explains: “I was a single father and had been working long-term in a small hotel in a rural village with little opportunity for change.
“A New Year’s resolution to see how far I could mentally and physically push myself resulted in a return to tertiary education through The Open University (OU) and the completion of a multitude of endurance races.”
Stuart decided to initially take access modules with the OU to help him decide what subjects he enjoyed, leading him to study for a BA (Honours) Business Studies degree and subsequently switching to the specialist accountancy route offered.
Having taken a long break from education after leaving school, he adds: “I was not confident in returning to study. The tutor communications and support helped to first develop and then refine my ability to study and complete academic assignments.
“The support provided at each level meant that I was never underprepared for the level of work that was required.”
Living in a small, rural village, he says there were “limited job opportunities”, but he was determined to improve the lives of himself and his daughter and be a good role model to her.
Needing to continue working through his studies, Stuart explains: “My work schedule in the hospitality industry involved long, changeable, unsociable hours.
“Between work, looking after my children and living in a reasonably remote area, attending a ‘bricks and mortar’ university was near impossible and I needed scope to fit study hours around a very unpredictable and ever-changing schedule.
When I did my research, the OU seemed to be best fit for my circumstances and had a great reputation.”
“When I did my research, the OU seemed to be best fit for my circumstances and had a great reputation.”
He also says that studying wouldn’t have been possible without having access to the Part-Time Fee Grant to pay for his studies.
“This was absolutely essential,” he says. “I would not have been able to afford to start or continue my studies without the assistance.
“I have encouraged several of my former co-workers to also utilise this resource to help pursue their own studies.”
During the course of his degree, Stuart went on to meet and marry his wife, and welcomed a baby daughter into the world. He was also delighted to gain a new job in an accountancy practice, helping towards his career goal of becoming a Chartered Accountant.
He welcomes the flexibility the OU offers its students that enabled him to study across a number of years while balancing new changes in his family and work life.
The flexibility to study during hours that worked for me allowed me to live a relatively normal life whilst studying.”
“The flexibility to study during hours that worked for me allowed me to live a relatively normal life whilst studying,” he comments.
“As a result, motivation was less of an issue, as I managed to get married, go on a honeymoon, spend time with my kids, had a baby and trained for numerous endurance races all whilst studying.”
Stuart admits it was “tough”, but adds: “I have an awesome, supportive wife who kept me grounded. I learned that I had to set priorities, as sometimes it was not possible to achieve everything that I wanted to.
“The toughest time was around the birth of our youngest daughter when time and sleep were at a premium. There were a lot of late nights and day-time power naps.”
He found that setting short-term goals and recognising the need to take a break from studying helped him: “When things get particularly tough, a walk, a run or a couple of days away from the books can make a huge difference to your performance and your mental health.”
Reflecting on his time with the OU, he says: “My studies helped me to change career and move into a job that I love.
“I look forward to going in to work each day and am confidently pursuing further accountancy studies, benefitting greatly from my experience of study whilst working full-time.
“Most importantly, the new job has allowed me to spend more time with my family.
“I now sit down to dinner with them every night, I can put my youngest daughter to bed each night, and we can now go on weekend excursions and holidays.
“All things that I had not been able to do previously.”
Stuart received his degree at an OU graduation ceremony in June 2022 at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
He says: “This ends a significant, defining chapter of my life. I’m very proud and grateful for the opportunities that I had and look forward to seeing where life takes me. I don’t think this will be the end of my journey with the OU.”
Photos by Neil Hanna and Mick McGurk.