My name is Neil Andrews and I am 44 year old company director of a timber importer. I graduated in 2011 with a first class LLB (Hons) degree in Law and recently, I was also delighted to discover that I am the OU Law Student of the year 2011 based on my grades in the compulsory modules. When I started studying in 2006 I had no prior credit to transfer in and thus 6 years of study to complete my degree. In addition, having been away from formal education for 16 years, if I was told this would be the outcome, I probably would have laughed!
Like everyone who successfully completes an OU qualification my story is definitely one of emotional highs and lows, commitment, organisation, determination and lots of hard work but it is also testimony to the outstanding way the OU and the College of Law operates, the fantastic tutors and support provided and the incredibly high standard of the study materials. Ultimately, I feel I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the OU and the College of Law in providing the opportunity to fulfil a long held ambition to study for and obtain an LLB degree on terms that I could somehow incorporate into my business and personal life. Their respective outstanding reputations are fully justified in my view.
In addition to a very (essential) supportive wife and family (2 children, one age 4 when I started and a son born in March 2007 at the start of the 2nd module!) the standard and structure of the materials is certainly a key reason, I believe, for my success. They are brilliantly compiled which is so important when 90% of study is self motivated. That said, although OU study is indeed technically distance learning, there's a plethora of support.
The face to face tutorials are an essential way to meet fellow students and get to know your tutor and of course deal with current study topics and the all important eTMA's. I found that so much is achieved in a very short space of time probably due to everyone being so committed but also due to the quality of the tutors and their knowledge of the subject. Some tutors were academics, others were law professionals, both bringing their speciality to life in a most illuminating way at times. I started with a level one course W100 and the tutor that year, Jim Cullen, was a solicitor specialising in criminal law whose anecdotes were legendary and ensured the tutorials were fascinating! Many other forms of learning support are also only a phone call away but for each module your tutor is your main support and in my experience, couldn't have been bettered. All of this contributed to a positive experience enabling me to deal with all the ups and downs and keep going especially during moments when the pressure seemed unbearable.
My appetite for studying law originates from when I did my A levels, one of which is an A grade in Law. Despite a (thus far) reasonably successful career in business, I became fascinated with law and yearned to do my degree but as my business life was taking off I never did get to University. The flexibility of the OU meant that this was now a real possibility and once I took the decision in 2006 to start there was no going back. I thoroughly enjoyed finally unravelling the foundations of law and I guess my drive and enthusiasm contributed to maintaining my motivation, enabling me to achieve regularly high marks, a very powerful motivator in itself.
Exam times and fretting over key eTMA scores did nothing for my nervous system but that's all part of the challenge and looking back completing my degree and dealing with the stresses of which there were many only served to make me a stronger, perhaps more confident person and I place completing my degree, particularly in the context of working full time and enjoying family life as amongst my most satisfying achievements. Anyone who succeeds in this context has my greatest respect as it really is a phenomenal achievement and something to be immensely proud of (and this really does extend to family members and my amazing wife without whom...)
The OU/College of Law LLB degree programme has helped me to understand better many diverse areas of our business and many legally orientated matters in addition to very much broadening my horizons and outlook on life, in the process acquiring many beneficial skills and of course knowledge.
Another good thing about the OU LLB is that if it is completed within a time frame it becomes a QLD and a place to do the vocational qualification necessary in order to practice law is guaranteed at the College of Law. Personally, I am undecided yet as to the route I will take, I would very much like to do the LPC specialising in commercial areas of law or I may continue down an academic law path undertaking an LLM and take my study to greater depth.
Regardless of the route I take, the rewards in knowledge and personal satisfaction and development to be gained from a successful OU journey cannot be overstated and for me at least, it has been an incredible experience and I couldn't recommend the OU / College LLB (Hons) degree highly enough to anyone considering it whether for career or personal reasons.
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
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