UNISON helps John aim higher by exploring the past

When John Fletcher realised he’d rather study history than watch TV, he found out he could apply for a UNISON grant to help with the costs of his degree.

Hadrian's Wall

John has loved ancient history almost as long as he can remember. When he was growing up near Newport, South Wales, his grandfather would take him walking in the mountains, using the evidence of Iron Age hillforts and Roman occupation they encountered to bring the past to life.

Something similar happened on school trips to the nearby Caerleon Roman Legionary Fortress: John was fascinated to explore the base from which the Romans waged their campaign against a Welsh tribe that was refusing to bow the knee to the invaders.

So when he enrolled on a part-time degree with The Open University (OU), with the help of a UNISON educational grant, it wasn’t difficult to work out what to study.

John opted for an open degree so he could pick and choose the history modules from different degree courses that looked the most interesting. So far that’s included the Classical world and Welsh history and – coming a bit closer to our era – early modern Europe. He has enrolled to start his final module on Roman and Greek myths in October.

John said:

I should have gone to university when I was younger when I had the chance but I preferred to go out and earn a wage and do all the things that a mis-spent youth entails.”

So now I’ve got a bit of wisdom, I thought I’m bored with a lot of things on television and I really am interested in history, so I said to myself, ‘Let’s learn some things and see if I can actually get a degree.”

Studying at the OU made sense to John, who has been working for British Gas for the past six years.

John explained:

By doing it this way, I didn’t have to try to change my shifts or ask for a particular day off because I need to go to class.”

John says the OU’s approach to studying is very much about helping learners reach the level they need to be working at. John said:

The OU paces it so that you’re building up the skills you need. They’re not expecting your first essay to be top marks and ticking all the right boxes: they give you an expected structure and a lot of advice about how to build an argument.”

He’s also learned by listening to his tutors. John explained:

I’ve been fortunate with all my tutors: they’ve all given useful feedback – you’ve just got to be open-minded and listen to their advice."

Having a UNISON grant towards his studies has been a massive help, he says.

That £200 can be a godsend if you need to buy a laptop or a printer: I really appreciate what UNISON has done for me.”

To find out more about Higher Learning for trade union members follow this link