One door closes, another opens


Ruskin College, Oxford, England

It’s amazing how possibilities emerge and plans change through life.  This year I was hoping to get elected to a senior position in my workplace which would have kept me very busy all the time.  PCS holds its annual delegate conference immediately after the elections and I have to say it wasn’t much fun heading to Brighton knowing that I wouldn’t be part of that senior team for the coming year.  Looking back though this is the perfect way to organise things.  Conferences are positive in the fact that they set policy for the coming period.  They’re also navel gazing on a grand scale.  Well if the union as a whole was navel gazing so were individuals.  I certainly had a lot to think about and being able to do so with comrades close at hand was useful.  Losing the election felt major to me for the simple reason that as a surplus member of staff I could face redundancy without a full time union role to fall back on.  Considering the week was dominated by the attacks to come our terms and conditions but also facility time itself I was in a position to see things in a new perspective.  How many full time union roles will there be by the time the attacks are through?  I was starting to think about taking control of my situation.  I was coming up to the second anniversary of being declared surplus and whilst clinging on by my fingertips has been an exercise in resilience I wanted something more substantial and concrete to my name.

PCS conference includes a whole load of stalls and freebies to look through (although they’re practically the same every year so I was looking through them more out of tradition than in the hope of inspiration).  I came across the stall for Ruskin College and decided to take a look and pick up a prospectus.  At the very least I though that as Branch Secretary I should be taking the literature back to work and seeing if it could help anyone else.

I’d previously looked at the prospectus just out of interest to see what they do.  This time, the more I flicked through it the more I thought it might work for me.  I was just completing the TUC Equality Diploma and fancied something a bit more challenging.  I got more information from their website and suddenly got myself booked into an open day at the college itself to find out more about the MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies.

At the open day I felt at home at the college.  The set up of the MA seemed just right to me but something scared me too.  It was whilst thumbing through the dissertations of past students that I suddenly realised that this was a total, full on, serious masters degree.  Why wouldn’t it be?  This was more a realisation that if I went for it I would have to produce some serious, full on material.

I studied for a masters in Democratic Studies back when I was 21.  It’s 15 years ago and I’m a different person.  It feels altogether more daunting now for some reason.  But I applied anyway and went for an interview.  I was accepted onto the course and I’ve already received some work to do in preparation for the first residential weekend.  I’m not yet sure where this will take me but I know that I wouldn’t have applied had I won that election.  Losing isn’t always a loss at all.  It’s often just a way to reach another path.

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