Pushpa Kumbhat

Student spotlight details

Since studying at OUDCE, Pushpa has researched the impact of adult education on the Labour Movement, pursuing a PhD at Leeds University with a fully funded research scholarship.

'I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1993 and in 1997 I moved to Oxford to work for the John Radcliffe Hospital. Though I enjoyed my work, somehow I felt that I had never really had a chance to test my academic ability. This drew me to further education. I completed the Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology at OUDCE. Then I did the Foundation Certificate in History. History as a subject gave me a chance to exercise what Tom Buchanan (Course Director) referred to as historical imagination. I found myself immersed in a new world that I would otherwise have had no access to. Intellectual curiosity was ultimately my inspiration for undertaking the course.

'Writing academic essays was challenging because it was so new to me. However, it was a real thrill to achieve a good mark. Tom Buchanan and Christine Jackson (Co-Director of the course) were always incredibly supportive and provided excellent feedback on how to improve my work. As I was working full-time, time constraints were a challenge, but the course was designed for working people so it was possible to balance study, work and life in a sensible way. It was also rewarding just to have the opportunity to study something completely unrelated to my work.

'Since I completed the Foundation Certificate in History, my research has led me to investigate the history of the Labour Movement in Britain, and particularly the politics of working class adult education. I have just completed a PhD at Leeds University, focusing on the impact of adult education on the Labour Movement. I received the University of Leeds 110th Anniversary Research Scholarship to fund my doctoral studies. My research looks in particular at mostly working-class people who undertook adult education in the 1920s and 30s, at a time when mainstream post-school education was largely out of reach for the working class. I have also looked at those people’s lives in public service. My thesis supports the idea that inter-war adult education was accepted as a way of promoting and reinforcing a strong, idealistic democracy, at a time when democracy in Europe was under threat by extreme ideologies such as communism and fascism.

'After my PhD, I’m keen to find a post-doctoral research post which would allow me to pursue my interest in working class adult education and to publish parts of my thesis. I’d also be interested in finding an academic teaching post. However, I’m very aware of the competition and it will be a matter of applying for suitable posts and seeing what happens. This next stage is almost more daunting than all the study over the years, which of course was leading to this point. I’m also open to working in other non-academic areas that require a good researcher.

'My world has opened up and been made richer by my experience of adult education. I’ve met a wide range of people, young, middle-aged and older, all of who are engaged in life-long learning. It’s a great shame that adult education is not appreciated, promoted or funded in the way it was in the past, particularly during the time that formed the subject of my own research. I’ve had the privilege and great good-fortune to pursue my studies from MA to PhD level with funding support. For me, adult and further education has allowed me to think about having another career in an entirely different area to the one I trained in. The Foundation Certificate in History was the springboard for that aspiration.'

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