Former Royal Marine Peter Dunning was playing wheelchair rugby at the Invictus Games 2018 when a fellow UK Team member told him about The Open University’s Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund (DVSF).
He successfully applied and before he knew it, Peter was embarking on a BSc Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree – something which has always been his passion.
Now in his third year, Peter – who lost both his legs and sustained multiple other injuries on duty in Afghanistan – is on track to complete his degree in 2023. After graduation, he dreams of coaching fellow veterans and future Invictus Games participants.
A sporting superstar
After doing his GCSEs at school, Peter studied Sports Science and Clinical Psychology at a brick university. While he enjoyed playing Rugby Union for the university team, he didn’t enjoy the clinical psychology element and dropped out.
Looking to challenge himself more both physically and mentally, Peter joined the Royal Marines and served for five years before an accident in 2008 changed his life forever. A vehicle he was in went over an improvised explosive device (IED) leaving him badly injured and unable to continue his military career or play the sport he adored.
Years later, Peter began playing wheelchair rugby and was one of eight players selected to represent the UK Team in the Invictus Games in Sydney in 2018.
“Daniel Bingley, a friend of mine who was also competing in the Invictus Games, told me about the OU’s Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund,” he said.
“I knew I needed to do something else, so I looked into it further and thought ‘Why not?’.
“I wanted to choose a course that I would enjoy and that would help my future, so I went for Sport, Fitness and Coaching, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! The sport arena is what I’d like to do career-wise, and sports is where my big interest has been ever since I was a wee dot.”
An award-winning student
Peter got off to a great start with his OU studies and was nominated for an Inspirational Student Award by his tutor.
“It was a shock to be nominated for the Student Award, and it was even better to win it!” Peter said.
“Studying with the OU has changed me because it has made me appreciate education. I’ve been out of work and education for a while, and this has got me back into it. It’s good to get the grey matter ticking over again!
“I didn’t know if I would be able to achieve this, but I am. I couldn’t do it without the ongoing help and support of my partner either,” he added.
“Studying has been a lifeline”
Peter has shared custody of his two children, so he’s had to find ways to fit in his studies around his family life.
“Having my studies really helped me in lockdown, especially during the weeks I didn’t have my kids,” he said. “It gave me something to focus on, so it’s been a lifeline. I just made sure I was always a week or two ahead, so I was free when I had my kids to help them with their home-schooling.”
He also appreciates the way OU study is broken down into manageable blocks and said: “I love a to-do list, so I like the way OU work is set out week by week. I like ticking it off at the end of each week!
“You have to be self-motivated, but I haven’t found that hard because I genuinely enjoy the subject I’ve chosen, so I’m inspired by that. I also spoke to a local sports scientist to learn about the job and thinking about that keeps me motivated as my goal is to work in a related field.”
A big thank you to the OU family
The Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund is made possible thanks to the generosity of OU alumni and donors. Each year, the Fund enables veterans like Peter to access life-changing education, so they can rewrite their futures outside of the military.
“To all the donors and everyone who helps with the DVSF scheme I have simply two words to say – thank you! I will always be happy to shout about the DVSF as it’s been of great benefit to me,” said Peter. “Having the opportunity to do the scholarship has been fantastic – I don’t think I’d have considered studying without a scholarship as I couldn’t have funded it.
“My studies have already helped my wheelchair rugby teammates and me when it comes to recovery and nutrition. The teaching materials and tutors have been great – particularly when it comes to assignment feedback and their helpful advice which helps me to perform better next time.
“I am hoping my qualification will really be of immense benefit when it comes to job searching, and will make it easier to get into the area that I want to work in. Plus, lots of jobs require you to have a degree, so now I’ll be able to apply for those too. I want to get into a career in exercise physiology, biometrics or coaching – I’d love to coach for the Invictus Games!
“To anyone thinking of studying with the OU I’d say, ‘Good for you!’. My advice would be to: make sure you pick a topic you’re interested in; find a time in the day when you know you’re at their most productive to study; and give yourself plenty of time for assignments. Good luck!”
Scholarship applications are now open
The OU is offering a further 50 scholarship places for disabled veterans wanting to study with us in 2022/23. Successful applicants will have their fees waived for a maximum of 120 credits per seasonal academic year, up to a maximum of 360 credits, which is equivalent to a full Honours degree. They will also receive specialist careers and disability support.
Learn more and apply for your place before 8 July 2022.