Classics was my Chrysalis, by Steve Havelin

My first OU course was Reading Classical Latin back in 2001. Now, in 2017, I’ve finished my final OU module on The Roman Empire. In the years between I completed all the OU’s other Classical Studies modules, and a couple more courses to make up points for qualifications. I now have a Diploma in Classical Studies, an honours BA in Humanities with Classical Studies, an open BA, and an honours BA in Classical Studies. I’ve got ‘the three degrees’ and a diploma for which the official abbreviation is, amusingly, ‘Class. Stud.’!

I took a career break back in 2007 to complete my first BA. I’d had a letter from the OU explaining they would be discontinuing their Level 3 Classical Greek course. I desperately wanted to do it but knew I’d find it very difficult. I wouldn’t have had time to fit it in with all my other commitments. So giving up work for a while was the only way. In all honesty, at the time, this did feel risky. But it was also very exciting. It was a gamble. And it paid off. My BA got me a job in Classics and led to my MA in Classics.

My original academic background was scientific. I did Maths and Science A levels, a BSc in Human Genetics, and a PGCE in Chemistry. I taught secondary school Science subjects for several years. But I’d always had a passion for Classics. So once I had my OU degree I decided to go for Classics teaching jobs. It wasn’t easy! I submitted more than eighty applications (!) before I finally made it. Maternity cover first, then part-time work, and finally Head of Classics. And to tick the CPD (continuing professional development) boxes I kept studying – clocking up OU Classics courses and MA modules.

I particularly enjoyed writing my MA dissertation. I had a fair bit of research material left over. I worked on this, on and off, for a year or so after my MA. I began to see how it might lead to a further research project. A few more months’ work and I was able to put together a successful research proposal. Now I’m off to Durham University in October to start my PhD in Classics.

Paying my way will be a challenge. But I’m up for it. There’s not much funding out there for Classics. The Humanities don’t get much of a look in. There aren’t the grants you get in the Sciences. So I’ll be doing my PhD part-time over six years. Part-time work will hopefully keep me afloat financially. And I have saved hard over the years. So I’ve got a small study fund of my own which will help.

I’d urge anyone out there considering studying with the OU to go for it. You just don’t know where it might lead. I could never have envisaged my career path changing so dramatically, or so successfully. But I’m thrilled that it has.