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Vazken Davidian

BA History of Art

Vazken had been working as a legal publishing manager in the City for over 10 years, when he found himself asking: 'Is this it?'

When his company began restructuring for the third time in four years, he knew that it was time for him to pursue the ambition he had always held, of going back to university to study Art History.

Although Vazken had been to university at 18 and graduated with a degree in economics and law and a postgraduate degree in publishing, his choices at that time had been driven by pressures from his family, and not from a personal interest in the subjects. It had been 13 years since he was at university, but Vazken was not intimidated; rather he was full of excitement.

A good friend of his had graduated from Birkbeck 15 years earlier and had always told Vazken how much he would enjoy studying here. The part-time, evening study enabled him to find a job and meet his financial commitments. Vazken thinks that he was able to meet the challenge of full-time work and part-time study because he came to it later in his life.

He comments: 'At 38 you have a totally different outlook on life to the one you had when you were 18. You are able to manage situations much better.'

The Birkbeck students were also very different from his 18-year-old classmates from his first time at university. 'We had 18 and 19 year olds, and also people in their 70s and 80s. Walking into a class you couldn’t tell who were the students and who was the academic; it gave a completely different dynamic and made studying a really satisfying experience.'

As well as support from his family and partner, Vazken found that the mutual support of classmates was incredibly important. They have remained friends after graduation, and a group, with ages ranging from 23 to 75 still meet up regularly. As well as support from fellow students, Vazken found that the lecturers were incredibly generous, sharing their time and knowledge: 'The standard of teaching was amazing and I’ve really learned so much on my BA.'

Despite over a decade in a high-powered job in the City, Vazken also found that studying at Birkbeck presented him with many challenges.

'Presenting academic topics was initially quite daunting, as you have to attain a certain depth of knowledge. The course gives you the confidence to do that by enabling you to look at art in a completely new way, and to start asking different questions,' says Vazken.

When he started the BA, Vazken already had a passion for a very specific area of art history, Armenian art at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. He knew that he wanted to go into academia to research, write about and publish on the subject. Having successfully completed his Bachelor’s degree, Vazken was accepted onto the MPhil/PhD research degree and is now studying towards his doctorate.

'It really is a dream come true. The restructure of the company was the push that I needed to follow my dream. If people think there is something they want to do badly enough, then they should just go for it. At Birkbeck you’ve got part-time study and you can work as well, so you’ve got the best of both worlds. It sounds like a cliché but studying at Birkbeck really has changed my life.'

Find out more about our history of art courses.

'At Birkbeck, you can study while you're working, so you've got the best of both worlds.'