Pamela compares her experience of distance and face-to-face learning and how each had an impact on her. She explains how she has made use of her degree since finishing it 2018.

My Adult Learner Journey (Or how I fell into education)

My name is Pamela Humphreys and the secondary school reports I received in the 1960s repeatedly said I was a ‘late developer’. This has proven to be true as I became a Batchelor of Arts in Humanities & Arts in July 2018 after studying with the Open University and the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester. I had never considered myself to be an academic so I went to work for Thomas Cook, the travel agent, when I left school at 16. My mother was widowed at a young age and all financial contributions to our household were gratefully received as I lived with her until I married.

Pamela standing outside the entrance to the Vermeer exhibition which was in the Rijksmuseum during 2023.
Pamela’s interest in art history has remained after her degree and she volunteers as an art researcher for Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

My interest in learning started when my daughter decided to study archaeology at the University of Birmingham and our conversations became very one sided. I realised that to understand what she was doing, I had to familiarise myself with her chosen subject and its vocabulary. The Open University ran a 10 credit course called Archaeology: the science of investigation which could be paid for using my Tesco Clubcard Points. I applied in 2010 and, to my surprise, received a pass. My next course, this time worth 15 credits, was called Heritage: whose heritage? This was also paid for courtesy of Tesco. In 2012, Making Sense of the Arts notched up another 15 credits but all of these courses were conducted by telephone or email. There was no interpersonal contact and I felt alone.

 The OU suggested I try a 60 credit module titled The Arts Past and Present running in 2013. This was a big commitment for me but with the support of my husband and employer, I applied. I loved every bit of it. There were day schools and group lectures on a few Saturdays but, unfortunately, only a small number of the students on the course attended these face to face encounters as we were spread across the country. I found them very beneficial and still keep in touch with one fellow student who has gone on to complete a PhD.

One of the day schools in 2013 was held at the University of Leicester which is an easy journey from Northampton where I now live. I felt very comfortable on the campus and enjoyed the available facilities especially all the Richard lll merchandise in the book shop! Unbeknownst to me, I also crossed paths with Dr Lucy Faire who was one of the writers in The Arts Past and Present resource books and the Course Director for the BA Humanities & Arts at the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning.

The Open University then proposed that I work towards an undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education in Humanities. I only needed a further 20 credits and one final module, Making Sense of Things: An introduction to Material Culture made my total credits 130.

As I had enjoyed my days at Leicester, I researched the university website and was pleasantly surprised to see a BA course in Humanities and Arts being offered on a part- time basis in weekly face-to-face sessions. After making enquiries and visiting an open evening, I enrolled and applied for my student loans in order to commence my course in September 2015. The next three years were the most challenging, stressful, frustrating, enjoyable and fulfilling period of my life. Without the help and support of the tutors and my amazing study group, I may have dropped out after the second year but completing the course and graduating has given me confidence and skills I use on a daily basis.

Now I am in my retirement years, I volunteer as an art researcher for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and act as host for our art lecture series. I use PowerPoint presentations, visit libraries and records offices where necessary and continue to learn.

Lifelong Learning is for everyone, whatever their age, and it should be encouraged, supported and enjoyed.