Karl Thomas, a mature student and Goldsmiths veteran, writes about how he felt coming back into education after a few years off, and his experience at Goldsmiths.
I started my journey into higher education as mature student in 2013. I enrolled on a full-time foundation course in History, which lead to a BA, and to me continuing my studies on the Queer History MA at Goldsmiths. I had always taken a keen interest in history and politics, but after having left school at 16 the prospect of returning to study, while exciting, was also slightly daunting. I was also concerned that I might have difficulties fitting in as an older student. However, with support, I soon became part of a community on campus, and realised that the student population at Goldsmiths is very diverse, and over the years have met many people in the same position as me. Research conducted by the NUS showed that as many as 80 per cent of current mature students enrolled when they were over the age of 24.
My course provides an overview of the histories of gender and sexuality. It is the first of its kind in the world, and I am proud to be part of such a ground-breaking initiative. It is taught in an original and engaging way, and partners with other institutions such as the Bishopsgate Institute and the London Metropolitan Archives. The course has widened my historical knowledge, and on a personal level, enhanced my self-esteem and confidence. It has widened my perspective of how I look at the world, and has been a positive and empowering experience. As a student with disabilities, I receive support from two mentors who help me with study skills, and with wellbeing issues – this support has proved to be invaluable over the years. Also, I find the staff at the history department to be very approachable and friendly, and have never experienced any problems asking for help.
In addition to my studies I have also been involved in several activities on campus, mainly through the Students Union. I was elected mature students’ officer in my third year, and I am currently a postgraduate department representative. This involves attending staff meetings and working on projects with the Students Union with the aim of improving student services. This type of student participation is crucial to widening student democracy, and serves to improve my quality of life as a student by enabling me to mix with other students from a diverse range of backgrounds.
It might be difficult for me to describe a typical day on campus, as I find no two are ever the same – this is what continues to make coming to university exciting and interesting. Currently, I am making a start on my final piece of written work, a 10,000 word dissertation, due in September. During the next few months, I will be spending lots of time studying in the library which is open 24 hours a day and has its own dedicated postgraduate study space. I have seen many changes and improvements be made to the library during my time at Goldsmiths, such as extended opening hours, and the introduction of a laptop loan scheme. I’m pleased that the college has taken student feedback about additional study spaces on board. I will also be thinking about where I’ll end up next, and intend to make use of the Careers Service.
I have found these past six years to have been an enjoyable stimulating adventure, and would recommend it to anyone who is considering returning to education – it’s never too late to learn!
For more information on the support Goldsmiths offers, please visit the Student Wellbeing, and Disability Support pages. You can find out more about the programmes Karl studied on by visiting the BA History, and MA Queer History programme pages.