Jo Edge

Foundation Certificate in History

Jo Edge was looking for a bit of a challenge when she enrolled on our Foundation Certificate in History - and liked it so much that she's now working toward her PhD.

'I'd dropped out of a degree course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama after a year, and moved to Oxford to play in a band with a friend who lived there. I began working as an administrator in local government. After a few years I realised I wasn't being intellectually challenged, so I decided to study part-time to see if I was really suited to academia.'

'I found out about the Foundation Certificate in History from a friend who had done it two years before me, and another who was doing the Foundation Certificate in English Literature, so I had first-hand accounts of how good courses at OUDCE were. I did some research and saw I could get a grant from the County Council to pay my fees. While I've three A levels, I didn't do History, which many degree courses in History would have required. Once I'd met Christine Jackson (who, with Tom Buchanan co-directs the programme) and had my interview with her, I was sure that it was the right subject for me to study, plus of course I could continue to work full time so I didn't have to make any major lifestyle changes.'

'There was a great mix of people in our class - younger and older; working and not working; male and female; and from a range of different backgrounds and countries. This provided an excellent chance for interesting and varied discussions on historical topics. Tom and Christine were fantastic tutors and spent a lot of time helping us and giving us feedback. The most challenging part was finding the time to study around a full-time job: but as soon as I realised I wanted to carry on to do a degree, this gave me the motivation to study even when I didn't feel like it!'

'At first I had no expectations: I just wanted to learn more. This changed in the second year, when my marks really began to improve and I realised that I wanted to go back to university and get my degree. The biggest surprise was how well I got on with everyone and how many firm friends I made with similar interests, I hadn't enrolled on the course in order to socialise. This social aspect was brilliant for discussing ideas over a drink, too!'

'I wanted to move to London to live with my boyfriend, and Goldsmiths College very kindly said I didn't have to repeat my first year, as I'd done that part time at OUDCE. I went straight into the second year in September 2006 and found that being able to put so much time into my studies meant that my grades improved dramatically. By the third year I was sure I wanted to do the MA in Medieval Studies at UCL.'

'I obtained a First in my degree and then took a gap year to work and save for the MA, and then commenced the MA in September 2009. The MA was one of the hardest things I have ever done, especially as I had to work 20 hours a week to fund myself, but I obtained a High Distinction, averaging 77%. I am now in my first year of a PhD at Royal Holloway, supervised by Prof. Peregrine Horden, generously funded by the College's Reid scholarship.'

'My PhD is on Onomancy - a form of divination which claims to reveal past, present or future events using the letters of an individual's given name. I'm looking at a specific kind of popular onomancy and it's use in the late Middle Ages (1100-1500) - the 'Spheres of Life and Death' - which claim to predict whether a sick person will live or die by performing simple arithmetic with the numbers correlating to the letters of the patient's name. This may sound superstitious, but I'm aiming to show that the 'rationale' behind the use of these devices actually conforms to mainstream medieval philosophy. I've just had great fun writing my first chapter on the medical context of the use of the 'Spheres', but it's early days yet...'

'Nobody should ever think that a PhD is a golden ticket to a job in academia, especially in the current climate. But of course my dream is to work as a researcher and lecturer. At the moment, I'm seeing the PhD as a three-year job. I'll be applying for as many postdoctoral positions as I can during my third year. You have to give yourself the best possible chance and you have to be able to take rejection.'

'Obviously, it's not something to go into lightly - it is a big commitment - but if you're in a position where you're not sure if you want to do a full degree or not, the Foundation Certificate is a great way to make up your mind about it. Additionally, of course, the Foundation Certificate is a qualification in itself, which the first year of a degree isn't! I'd advise people to go and meet the tutors informally, find out as much about the course as possible and if you can get any funding for the fees, and then decide.'