The Open University student who left school at 16 and is now applying for a PhD

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“I thought I wouldn’t be able to get back into education, but The Open University taught me that if you are willing to put in the hard work, you can do anything,” said Mark Hogan.

The Open University (OU) is the leading distance learning university in the UK, with more than 175,000 students from Wales studying since it was founded in 1969. One of those students is Mark, who lives in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The 36-year-old grew up in Anglesey and he made the decision to leave school aged 16 to work in his family’s civil engineering business. However, he had always had a strong interest in mathematics and wanted to learn more.

Mark said: “I thought the door to education was always going to be closed because I didn’t have A-Levels. But then I heard about the OU and I thought it was fantastic. I could continue working in the family business and study at the same time. It ticked all the boxes.” 

During this time, Mark was working as a highway engineer repairing roads and then he would come home and study with the OU until he successfully completed an undergraduate course in BSc (Honours) Mathematics.

With this qualification, Mark secured a job with the Welsh Government as a statistician, moved to Cardiff and began the next stage of his career journey. 

“The dedication and continuous learning I had when studying with the OU really pushed me on academically and allowed me to apply for jobs I couldn’t before,” said Mark.

“When I look back over my career, I can’t believe everything I’ve achieved since applying for the OU. One of my lecturers told me that studying this way can be quite addictive and at the time I didn’t believe them. Now I know it’s true, as after a few years you get into a rhythm of working and studying.”

After enjoying his experience with the OU, Mark then studied a postgraduate course in mathematics. He decided to further his education as a postgraduate student for three reasons.

Mark explained: “Firstly, I’m a chartered statistician with the Royal Statistical Society and it has CPD requirements so doing a master’s degree helped with my professional development. The second reason was because it broadened my horizons and thirdly, because I just love studying maths.”

Six years later, Mark is a senior statistician and he has recently completed his master’s degree. He sat his final exams during lockdown and described the experience as strange but also comfortable, as he enjoyed taking the exams from the comfort of his own home.

“I really have to praise the university as they did a fantastic job during lockdown,” said Mark. “They made sure all the exams could continue and followed normal procedures in terms of marking.

“I was always a bit worried that my degree wouldn’t be taken seriously, but I’ve discovered the opposite reaction. My employers have held it in higher regard as people realise the determination it takes for someone to study whilst juggling a job and family.”

Mark is a testament to what can be achieved with the OU, and he isn’t going to stop studying after the postgraduate course. He now has his sights set on a PhD.

“My advice to others would be just to go for it,” added Mark. “You’ve got nothing to lose and you don’t know where it might lead.”

For more information about The Open University and what postgraduate degrees are available, visit the website.



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