Stephen Barnham

Student spotlight details

Following a 30-year break from formal education, Stephen Barnham enrolled on our online course in ethics, from the comfort of his own home in Singapore. He is now working towards the Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education.

'After leaving formal education with a degree in Computer Science 30 years ago, I have been working in financial services ever since, and am now the Chief Information Officer at a US financial services firm. I have a family (although no small children at home) and though originally from the UK, I have lived all over Asia and now in Singapore.

'I recently became interested in ethics, particularly in terms of how modern technology is transforming our lives. I decided I wanted to learn more. My life had little exposure to liberal arts, so I was keen to embark on something that would force me out of my comfort zone and get my brain thinking about new things.

'I came across the Department's course, 'Ethics: An Introduction' and discovered that it was entirely online. This meant I could fit the course around my demanding day job and study from my home in Singapore. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect, but just before the term started all the details regarding the learning platform came through and it was easy to sign up. The course was taught over 10 units, after the first three, there was a short assignment of 500 words and then towards the end, a longer assignment of 1,500 words.  

'Although I had never studied ethics before, nor online in this way, I soon got used to the various learning formats between online chat forums, reading, video lectures, podcasts and essay writing. The tutor who ran the course was very encouraging and took the time to explain basic concepts and direct us to a variety of materials. The video lectures were extremely helpful and started from a basic level which really helped a beginner like myself.

'Whilst the platform is easy to use, I found the content challenging: the reading required several attempts - it seemed to be written in an unfamiliar language. The concepts and ways of thinking, debating and expressing arguments, were also new and it had been over three decades since I had written an essay. I found I had to think deeper and harder than I have had to for a long time, and each session felt like a workout for my brain.

'The time commitment can be tough, especially if you have a full-time job, however, I found that if you are disciplined (I cut back the Netflix bingeing) and dedicate an hour or so a day with some time at weekends, it is enough.

'Finally, the hard work does pay off: the wonderful sense of achievement, to be able to look back on the COVID lockdown and see that I have passed two units and now on my third, as part of the Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education. The courses are designed so that you can run almost at your own pace – if you have time you may be able to take two or three units, and if not, then with careful planning it is possible to do just one.

'I'd encourage anyone to pick a subject you are curious about, try it out and see where it takes you. It may be the beginning of a wonderful journey.'

Learn more: