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- Diane

Sarah takes on a big learning challenge

Sarah takes on a big learning challenge


As you’ll know from recent posts here and on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve been thinking a lot about learning recently. So I was more than impressed when I met Heydayer Sarah, 63, and heard about the huge learning challenge she’s recently completed.

“I’m really interested in the whole area of reducing crime and victimisation. I’m a solicitor by training, but I’d done a non-law degree, and worked in broadcast television production for the BBC and ITV for a long time, before becoming Director of Development at a charity for older people.

I felt it would be good to put my brain to the test

I’d always had it in my mind to do a masters, and I thought it would be enjoyable to do the Crime Science degree at the Jill Dando Institute at University College. I’d never done anything vaguely scientific and I felt it would be good to put my brain to the test.

I was working at the charity when I started the degree but I quickly realised it was more than a part-time commitment if I was going to do it in a year, so I changed to the part-time course which took three years instead. It involved lectures, and exams, which were terrifying, and I had to learn statistics which I’d never done. I got a lot of help with that part of the course from one of my sons who was very patient with me!

Everybody on the course was younger than me

Everybody on the course was younger than me, but there were plenty of mature students, in their 30s, 40s and 50s, so I didn’t completely stand out!

The degree started with a foundation course about the basics of Crime Science - how it works, how it’s inter-disciplinary, how it looks at the wide variety of ways of reducing crime - through engineering, design and using psychology to understand why people commit crime. Crime Science is different from criminology in that it’s not about what makes people criminals, it assumes that everyone has the potential to behave in a criminal way and what you’ve got to do is make it easier for people to function within the law and make crime more difficult to commit.

Doing exams was definitely more scary this time round

I found the first year quite difficult. Just getting my head round what I needed to do, and I had to sit an exam, which was challenging. I’d always quite liked the whole process of exams but it was definitely much more scary this time round. And I did exactly what I’d always told my children not to do, I turned over the paper and thought ‘I’ve got to put down everything that I know!’ I did pass, which I was really relieved about.

My third year involved a dissertation which was a piece of self-motivated research which counts for a third of the overall degree. My subject was why victims and witnesses don’t report the hate crime they experience, and it involved designing an online survey which around 900 people completed. I probably enjoyed that part the most, but it was a bit lonely and because I’ve always worked in teams with other people. It’s quite interesting to have to be self-motivated and to really make oneself do the work.

My sister said, “mum and dad would have been so proud”

I got my results last week and I got a distinction, so I’m very happy about that. Now I’m going to do an executive summary and then hopefully do some workshops based around the outcomes, because it was an area of original research that I don’t think has been done by anyone else, so the findings may be useful to the people and groups who helped me, and I want to give something back to them.

When I got my results my sister said “mum and dad would have been so proud of you” (our parents are both dead), and I replied “I don’t think so”. I think my dad would have been pleased, but my mother would have said “what on earth did you do that for? What are you going to do with it?”

My husband commented that I could have done a PhD in the time it took me to get the Masters, but I’m really glad I did it and relieved it’s over. And I’m definitely not going to do a PhD!”

Have you done any formal mature learning? I’m currently doing a useful and interesting on-line course on getting the most out of Instagram. It’s a long way from masters level, but I’m really enjoying it.

Other posts you’ll enjoy

The Heydayer who’s discovering lost languages

Uncovering hidden gems

Learning to age creatively

Graham's hobby literally saves lives

Graham's hobby literally saves lives

Meet Dilys, the world's oldest female skydiver

Meet Dilys, the world's oldest female skydiver