You’re never too old to learn as the saying goes and the OU proves how much that rings true as we help celebrate Lifelong Learning Week
From teenagers to pensioners, thousands of OU students – of all ages and stages of life – are among those choosing to study for a variety of reasons.
Among them are 18-year-old Marnie Coxall from Kent, who is embarking on her studies in Psychology and 84-year-old Martin Greenberg from London, who has just completed a six-year degree in English Literature and Creative Writing.
As part of the Festival of Learning, the OU is marking Lifelong Learning Week to champion adult learners like Marnie and Martin and to recognise the transformative power of learning.
Marnie and Martin both found the OU was there for them at the right time and was the right choice to allow them to study HE learning.
A “world turned upside down” doesn’t stop the learning
Marnie Coxall has set her sights on becoming a lawyer, and while 2020 has thrown the world upside down for many students, she is not letting that stop her.
Fresh from gaining great results in her A-levels in Criminology, Art, Maths and Sociology, the Dartford teenager has just started full-time study with the OU for a HE Certificate in Psychology. She explained that distance and independent learning had been what first attracted her to the OU when she applied in February, but now it has become a necessity.
“The Open University is a really good option. It meant I could stay at home and do my studies in a way I wanted to do them and work out a way in which I want to study.
“I’m an independent person and the same thing goes for my learning. I’ve always enjoyed teaching myself new things rather than it all being led by a teacher.“
Marnie still wants to pursue plans to do a law degree, in 2021 and to remain at home while studying. She is keeping her options open about where to do that but for now is happy to enrol with the OU this year.
Away from studying the teenager is also a keen artist.
She explained: “I’ve just started taking commissions, I do pieces with coloured pencils and can do it around my uni studies.”
Martin “never looked back” once his degree began
Martin Greenberg was 78 when his wife Rosalind prompted him to sign up to his first degree. He had retired from a life working in the clothing industry, with the likes of Selfridges and French Connection, having left grammar school at 15 (where he rubbed shoulders with fellow alumni Sir Michael Caine and the late playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter).
Coincidentally Martin started his studies just as his daughter finished her OU Masters degree and at the same time as his grandson and granddaughter headed off to university.
Martin said: “My daughter encouraged me, at first I said I was too old. After she graduated with her Masters, she knew I was looking for something to do, so she signed me up and I didn’t look back.
“I’ve always been very interested in writing, I worked in the fashion industry and wrote lots of reports, and hundreds of letters have been published in newspapers. So, I always thought I’d be good at studying it. At school I’d read Macbeth, Othello and other Shakespeare plays.”
Throughout his time with the OU Martin mixed with all age ranges of fellow students, including many much younger than himself, but said he never found it a barrier.
“I was treated equally, accepted you for what you were, we all got on really well.”
He is a firm advocate of continuous learning:
“Lifelong learning is important; you have to do things to keep the mind active and learn new things.
“I would recommend studying to other older people. I have been very fortunate in my life; age doesn’t matter in terms of study. Nobody looked at me like a silly old man.
“At the age of 84, sadly some of my friends have dementia, you have to keep your mind active and engaged. Learning is key to that.”
Martin loved the final year of his studies, reading classics such as Jane Austen and Shakespeare and for the creative writing element of his degree he drew from his experience as an evacuee during WWII and later his time in the national air force.
Martin continues his writing today, for his synagogue magazine.