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Roger Winfield

History (Certificate of Higher Education)

'I knew what type of course I wanted to do and I live and work relatively near here so a combination of internet searches and going to London University directed me to Birkbeck. I obtained a prospectus and chose what I wanted. The whole process of choosing and applying for my courses was very straight forward.

'I chose Birkbeck because it is part of the University of London and reputation was important to me. I work four days a week so it was important that I could study in the evenings and what Birkbeck offered fitted in perfectly for me.  I studied in various venues which were all central and easy to access which suited me as I often didn’t have time to travel any distance.  There was a great range of courses to choose from. I also liked the fact that Birkbeck welcomes people of any age and I didn’t feel out of place – it’s never too late to return to study. I used the library on line which is a great facility to have.

'Coming to Birkbeck gave me the opportunity to do something I should have done 50 years ago – study history at university level.  I’ve had a passion for history for years but taking the first step towards study was difficult. Doing the certificate gave me the opportunity to fulfil my ambition and I’m now doing a BA with Birkbeck. And as a result of doing my certificate I received an exemption from the first year of my BA which is great. I want to go as far as I can but I didn’t want to jump in at the deep end and doing the certificate allowed me to make sure that I knew what the expectations were for an undergraduate – it was an excellent preparation. It was very useful to do a modular programme – it was flexible and I could decide how I studied the course. I was literally able to start at the beginning and decide if it was something that I was able to do.

'I haven’t been in a classroom since I qualified as a solicitor over 40 years ago, and it felt good for me to test my ability to study again, after so long. I liked the fact that there was a good mix of people with different educational backgrounds.  I tend to work with a relatively narrow group of people, so it was great to find people in the class who were just as interested in higher education as I was. We learnt a lot from each other, because we were all coming from different places, and we had different contributions to make for our mutual benefit - this added to the course, without a doubt.

'I found it challenging balancing my work with study and my domestic life. The lecturers were very supportive of the fact that I had other commitments outside my studying and I was able to contact my tutors outside my class if I needed to.  This culture is built in to Birkbeck. It’s as it says in all the literature, that ethos is absolutely clear. Making a useful contribution in class and writing good essays was a challenge but the contrast with my daily work as a solicitor made studying a pleasure, not a burden.

'For me studying has provided intellectual stimulation and occupation which has enabled me to think more conceptually. I enjoy the fact that it stretches my brain – it’s a different way of thinking to my everyday work which almost becomes automatic. It gets your brain working again and it’s great to keep your brain active.  I am nearing the end of my career but the intellectual stimulation of demanding study has helped me to be more analytical about my work.  When I retire it will be something that keeps me stimulated.

'I would certainly recommend Birkbeck to anyone. The fact that I am doing a part-time history BA with Birkbeck reflects how much I enjoyed my certificate modules. My tutors have been supportive and non-judgemental of students’ contributions in class. The atmosphere is relaxed and open. The level of teaching is generally high and the demands of work and family are clearly recognised.

'I have looked forward to my Birkbeck classes every week since I started in the summer of 2008. I can only remember missing a couple of classes in that time. They have been an important and enjoyable part of my life, so much so that I have not resented missing big Arsenal matches which clash with classes or essay writing!'

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'I also liked the fact that Birkbeck welcomes people of any age and I didn’t feel out of place.'