For Craig Houston studying with the Open University (OU) in Scotland gave him the opportunity to completely change careers in a journey that has taken him from sales to social care.
“Prior to my OU studies, I was working in sales. It was enjoyable but was never my passion,” he explains. “The OU gave me the skills and experience to enable me to follow my passion and move into a social care role.”
Craig, aged 34 from Glasgow, has most recently worked as a Service Coordinator with Action for Children in Paisley, supporting young men that have received a short-term prison sentence.
He says that studying with the OU helped give him the confidence to change direction.
“It pushed me to start volunteering with Childline and I got to see first-hand how the theory I was learning about was applied in practice,” he explains. “My studies also highlighted the area of social care I wished to work in, inspiring my interest in childhood trauma and youth justice.”
After leaving school with no Higher qualifications, Craig later studied for an HNC in Social Sciences, which he was allowed to transfer credit from towards his degree. At the age of 28, he began studying for a BA (Hons) in Childhood and Youth Studies with the OU in Scotland, supported by the Part-Time Fee Grant.
During his studies, Craig appreciated the “flexibility and freedom” he experienced, highlighting: “The OU provided me with the opportunity to study at a time that suited me and built my confidence slowly, which enabled me to move to working in social care when the time was right for me.
“Flexibility was the single biggest factor in being able to achieve my degree. It allowed me to balance the other important factors in my life and not be overwhelmed.”
Craig adds: “My family were a huge inspiration for me. Giving me encouragement, reading my essays, and having dinner conversations about the subjects I was studying. I also found the young people I was supporting in my new social care role inspired me to keep going.”
He also welcomed the support of his tutors and found that online student forums helped him to feel connected during his studies. He says: “I was particularly lucky with my tutor support. The majority of my tutors made reaching out easy and were receptive when I did. Using the online forum or emailing them directly appeased many of the natural anxieties that occur throughout a qualification.
Flexibility was the single biggest factor in being able to achieve my degree. It allowed me to balance the other important factors in my life and not be overwhelmed.”
“The forum also helped. A lot of the time other students had similar questions, which always made me feel that despite studying remotely I was connected to other students… I did feel part of a community and always get a proud feeling when the OU advert comes on the TV!”
Craig is now undertaking an MSc in Global Mental Health at another university, and he credits the OU in giving him the confidence to continue studying.
“I would say that it is a bug,” he comments. “Once you are studying something you’re passionate about, you want more of it and the ability to do this through the OU, combined with the feedback I received from my tutors, gave me the confidence to even think about future studies.”
Craig graduated with distinction at an OU degree ceremony in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in 2022.
“My graduation has enabled me to go down a path I never thought possible when I started. It has given me the confidence, backed up by an academic qualification, to continue my studies. For someone who left school with no qualifications, I can say that without the OU I doubt I would ever have achieved any academic merit,” he concludes.