The Open University – the perfect way for mum’s to study?

If you are seeking a new career challenge after taking time out to have children and are finding that you just don’t have the skills and educational qualifications that you need, have you considered an Open University course?  Mojomums hears from two mums that have discovered and fulfiled their dreams through The Open University studying…

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After having four children and seeing her youngest off to school, Carys Bray, 39, from Southport, started to reminisce – she dared to dream about becoming a writer, a passion she had long ago filed away as she committed her time to having and raising her family.

As a teenager, Carys devoured books with aspirations of becoming an author, and when the time was right in her family life, she knew she need to do everything she could to make it happen. Carys decided on a Bachelor of Arts in Literature through The Open University (OU), needing and valuing its flexible learning structure to refine her skills and ideas with the hopes of becoming a published writer.

“As a teenager I wanted to be a writer and then I had my children and everything seemed to be on hold for a while. I emerged from a pile of nappies and then remembered what it was I wanted to do. I didn’t know I would achieve like that – not at all. At the end of my final year, I did a creative writing module and I did start to think about being a writer, but I didn’t think I would have two books published before 40.”

With four young children to look after, Carys worked around their needs, managing to fulfil the OU course requirements and complete assignments when she put the children to bed or they were at school – something she says would have unlikely been possible at other universities with more restrictive schedules.

“My youngest child had just started to go to nursery when I considered the OU. I really wanted to do it, but I needed enough time to be able to. The OU was ideal because I could do it in my own time while the children were in bed, or when my youngest was at nursery.

Today Carys is an award-winning writer. The recipient of the Salt Publishing Scott Prize, she published her engaging and critically acclaimed short stories book Sweet Home in 2012  – poignant and compelling, her stories explore the loss and regret, frustration and pain experienced by everyday people. A novel – A Song for Issy Bradley – based on one of the short stories followed in 2014 after Carys was approached by an agent who suggested that a novel should be her next goal. Carys’ novel was shortlisted for the 2014 Costa Book Awards.

“I was reading short stories and they were mostly stories about family relationships and there were a lot of children in them – I started writing my own stories and then I put them together in a collection and sent them to Salt Publishing who had this competition for unpublished collections, they chose to publish my work – Sweet Home. It was incredible.

“For my second book, an agent found me – luckily I didn’t have to go through the difficulty of finding one. She asked me when I was going to write a novel. I started thinking about it when I finished the short story collection. I had a short story that I thought had the potential to grow into a novel. I worked on it for a couple of years and it became my first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley.”

Carys is also putting the finishing touches on her creative writing PhD, teaching undergraduate students at Edge Hill and masters students at Manchester Metropolitan University while actively exploring ideas for her latest novel.

“Education definitely changed my life – it reintroduced me to the world that I had loved as a teenager who read and wanted to be a writer.”

 

Stacey Jackson was always ambitious, but even after completing a maths degree and landing corporate management roles, Stacey still felt she could do more to genuinely fulfil her potential. She found this opportunity with The Open University (OU), where a Masters Degree in Art History opened the door for her to explore and develop her career in a whole new direction.

Today, Stacey is the owner and operator of highly successful and respected communications agency, Solcroft Ltd. Starting the business from scratch and working from a desk under her stairs, Stacey now operates from a London office with an impressive portfolio of clients that includes major players in healthcare and telecoms.

While holding down a full-time job and raising her daughter, Stacey committed every Saturday she had available and every evening from 6pm-10pm to her OU study. This helped her to perfect the art of self-discipline and excellent time management, and Stacey believes there are strong parallels between the determination she showed in completing her degree and the perseverance she needed to set up and grow her business.

“For me, the degree was a massive achievement. It was definitely no walk in the park, and it was a big thing to see it through. My study taught me to be extraordinarily disciplined, and I carried that through into my business. I also carried with me the belief that if you really want to do something, you can achieve it if you don’t give up. My study definitely gave me the confidence to start up my own business – in the beginning, it was 100 cold calls a day and finding the confidence to keep doing that until I established clients. It took the same type of commitment as finishing my degree. Ultimately, if you aren’t committed, you won’t do it.”

Stacey also credits her OU masters degree with helping her develop the highly valuable academic writing skills that give her business a cutting edge in the ever-competitive communications industry.

“Increasingly, my clients have been asking for academic-style reports and what we bring to this type of project is a real ability to dissect things, to build and reinforce an argument where perhaps it hasn’t been properly formed, and draw compelling conclusions that haven’t been made before. For me, this really involves using the academic skills I earned with the OU.”

Throughout her business’ establishment and growth, Stacey often worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and while she now has time to take a breather here and there, it is certainly her ambition to see the business progress and evolve even further.

“I truly believe that you can do anything you want if you’re committed, and the OU will help you do that. It’s amazing because it’s affordable, and it’s showing people that there isn’t just one way of doing things in life – you can do things in a different way, and that’s ok.”

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