Martin Gallagher

Student spotlight details

Martin’s interest in Twentieth-Century Europe motivated him to undertake the Foundation Certificate in History, which eventually prepared him for his next academic challenge: full-time study of Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford.

‘I'd left school in 1987 with only a handful of indifferent GCSE's, having failed to engage with the educational process in any meaningful way.  Despite this, I'd always been an avid reader. Furthermore, during my time spent working as a continental truck driver in Central Europe, I began to notice the magnitude of the changes that had taken place there in the recent past. With plenty of time away from home, I found myself reading widely about twentieth century European history. My decision to undertake the Foundation Certificate was a result of this growing enthusiasm.

'The Foundation Certificate was ideal as an introduction to undergraduate study: the interview based admissions process enabled me to convey an affinity for the subject which compensated for my lack of formal qualifications. The part time structure of the course also meant that I could continue to meet work commitments throughout the two year period.

'I found the first year of the course demanding in many ways: I was fairly well informed in a variety of areas which were relevant to the course, but was initially unable to express myself with the requisite clarity; even coming to grips with basic IT provided quite a challenge to start with. Nonetheless, from the start of the second year I noticed an improvement in my writing which continued throughout; by the close of the year my thinking had become consistently analytical. The tutorial system was instrumental in this process; the one-on-one discussions with Tom or Christine often allowed me to take a view of a subject that I'd not previously considered.

'I applied to a variety of UK universities at the end of the first year to study for a BA in History; personal circumstances supervened however and I withdrew my applications, electing instead to act as the primary carer for my infant son in the first year of his life. Moreover, towards the end of the course I realised that, whilst still fascinated by historical studies, my interests had also diverged into other areas. Consequently, in October 2015, I applied and then received an offer from the University of Oxford to study Archaeology & Anthropology at Harris Manchester College starting in October 2016. Whilst I realise that the transition to full-time study will result in a much-increased workload, I think that completion of the Foundation Certificate has provided me with an excellent introduction to the demands of academic life.

'I can't overstate the extent to which I've benefited from the course, and I unreservedly endorse the work of the Department for Continuing Education, having received considerable support from the Department in non-academic matters: I've been in receipt of generous bursaries, and when contingent events (such as family illnesses) have occurred, mechanisms have been in place to accommodate me. Bearing all this in mind, I would suggest to prospective applicants that they shouldn't let questions of age, prior educational experience, or indeed anything else impede their progress. I've surpassed the expectations I had of myself when I applied for the course; I see no reason why others should not do the same!’    

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