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David Torr

David Torr in his graduation gown and holding a degree scroll. Photo by Julie Howden. A retired coach driver who left school with one O-Level qualification is now celebrating his degree success.

David Torr from the Scottish Borders has motored his way to a Bachelor of Science Honours degree with The Open University (OU), after trying out a free online study course and becoming hooked.

The 70-year-old joined other OU graduates at a Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ceremony and says, “Embrace your studies and if you struggle, help is out there, you only have to reach out. Remember it is an empowering achievement.”

Personal goals

David, who lives in Reston near Eyemouth, admits: “I fell into studying by accident, I was a member of the East Berwickshire U3A (University of the Third Age) following my interest in astronomy.

I fell into studying by accident. My journey was purely for personal goals, I left school with 1 GCE at O Level."

“My journey was purely for personal goals, I left school with 1 GCE at O Level.

“I was directed towards an OpenLearn course by the U3A. At the end of it having enjoyed the subject I decided to try and move further.  

“I started with a basic Open University science module followed by some maths modules, then I moved toward earth sciences.”

David opted for a flexible qualification pathway, saying: “The Open degree was taken after I realised, I did not have the aptitude to follow the maths of the course that I initially would have liked to follow, which was astronomy.  

“When I came to that decision, I still wanted to follow a science-based degree and was pointed towards the Open degree by an advisor in the OU in Scotland office, who explained that I could choose subjects that appealed to me.”

Free degree studies

Modules David picked included Planetary Science, plus Environment: Responding to Change. And his degree studies were free, thanks to the Part-Time Fee Grant

He says: “My partner and I purchased a summer house that became my study area - she wanted the kitchen table back, which did not happen during the colder months of winter!

I am proud of my achievement and have to say many thanks to everyone who helped."

“Throughout my time studying I had numerous health problems – including a trapped spinal nerve and diabetes - but the tutors were understanding and gave me time to complete each section.”

David had left school in 1969, joining the army the following year.

“Prior to retirement my main job was as a coach and bus driver,” he says. “I also worked with a holiday company transporting passengers to and from departure points.”

Now on gaining his degree, “it all seems surreal,” says David. He adds:

“I am proud of my achievement and have to say many thanks to everyone who helped, especially to my wife Denise who cajoled me into continuing and became my proof-reader in subjects that she has admitted to learning a little from.”

Try out OpenLearn 

I keep telling people to try OpenLearn out, it has a great variety to tempt you. I am intending to take some more free courses."

And David has not drawn a line under his studies yet. Of the OU's free learning site, OpenLearn, he says: “I keep telling people to try it out, its offerings are very good, it has a great variety to tempt you. 

“I am intending to go back to take some more free courses.

“If you are thinking of OpenLearn and not sure, just give it a try. There is something for everyone and at different levels.”


Photo by Julie Howden