Gary Neal

International Relations and Sociology, 2016

Gary Neal

After an eventful few years and a career setback, Gary decided to return to education at Oxford Brookes for an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Sociology.

If you had asked me in 2010 whether I thought I’d be back in education my response would have simply been “me back at school? And studying full time? No chance”! After a career spanning over 20 years in various management positions I was made redundant for the third time in as many years – aside from that negative it really opened up some very new and very positive opportunities for me. The first of these was the chance to go back to college, where I successfully achieved an Access Diploma in Social Work. Whilst in college a chance conversation with another student led to the subject of applying to university and I thought no, not me, not university… But then I thought how much I was enjoying learning and that if I didn’t take the opportunity now then maybe I wouldn’t get it the chance again.

Coming to an open day sealed Brookes as my first choice. The enthusiasm from the academic staff was particularly uplifting and encouraging. They were all so positive about their subjects and the topics they talked about proved that this degree was not only going to educate me on historical debates and theory, but also contemporary issues. I decided to take this course because I have always been interested in what goes on in the world. If I was going to make the effort to transform my life then I wanted a course that rewarded the effort that I put into my interests.

I really feel that just because you’re getting older you don’t have to stop you learning. Now that I am here I can certainly say that I have never felt out of place as an older student – Brookes has made me feel welcome from the very first visit and my lecturers have the skills and expertise to make every lecture and seminar a truly rewarding educational experience.

From the outset Brookes is geared towards your future no matter what that may be. If you are going to continue with education, begin a brand new career or even become a teacher, the university very quickly understands what skills you need in order to achieve your personal goals. The options that can be studied within each discipline have allowed me to study what is of interest to me and what is most beneficial for my future. At each and every stage I have been able to discuss with academic advisors which of the modules that I take can best support my future career options. The support you receive from your faculty is an inspiration.

As a city Oxford really has something for everyone. The history, culture, bars and restaurants are great. Public transport is also cheap and reliable, and when I need a holiday I can even get to the major London airports directly 24 hours a day. I would say that Oxford offers a lot for students.

I am very proud of the university that I am part of. Brookes has given me opportunities that I could never have imagined and provided me with the very best education. Now that I am in my final year I know when I graduate it will be both the very best day, tinged with sadness as it means I will have to leave!