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“The OU changed my career prospects” Gary shares his story

At the age of 14, Gary Steel left school to care for his mum. His education had been severely impacted by his caring responsibilities and despite being capable, he left school with no qualifications and entered the job market.

A few years later he had the opportunity to attend a lecture with his partner who was studying Law at The University of Nottingham.

“I was hooked, that lecture totally inspired me and from that moment I was determined to get a degree myself. I researched how I could study Law without any qualifications and found the OU. It was the perfect solution, so I signed up and I’m so glad I did. “

 Studying with caring responsibilities

Studying gave Gary something else to occupy his mind and allowed him time to focus on himself, but because he needed to be home looking after his mum he couldn’t attend the tutorials and found himself struggling.

“I would study while my mum slept and at weekends when family and friends would take her out. I found it very difficult during the first 2 years. I didn’t tell the OU about my situation because I was embarrassed and at the time, I was unaware of the extra support that I was entitled too.”

Despite his initial difficulties, Gary was resolute that nothing would stop him from achieving his ambition of becoming a Law graduate, so he knuckled down, studied hard and in 2014 his determination paid off and he graduated with a Bachelor of Law (Hons).

“I am the first person in my family to attend university and considering the tough start I had to education and the fact I was caring for my mum the whole way through my degree, I am extremely proud of myself.”

Gary Steel

In 2017 he was awarded a very prestigious scholarship from The Law Society, the Diversity Access Scheme. The aim of the scholarship is to give access to the legal profession to those from backgrounds who would otherwise find it difficult to access the profession.

“This award paid for my LPC, gave me the opportunity for work experience and an industry mentor.  I have been able to use this to open doors and I sincerely believe that I would not have been awarded the scholarship if I had attended any other university than the OU.”

Gary has now come full circle, graduating with a Masters (LLM LPC) from Nottingham Trent University in 2016. He is now working in the legal sector as a Housing Paralegal at Derbyshire Law Centre and is actively seeking a training contract.

A new outlook and a new career

Reflecting on his journey to get to this point he says:

“I have not allowed anyone or anything to hold me back.  The OU not only change my career prospects but it made me confident, articulate and allowed me to change my life style. It has absolutely changed me and I was able to consider a career rather than just a job.”

Offering some words of advice to other thinking of studying with the OU he says;

“Jump in with both feet. Do not have any preconceptions or judgements. Choose a topic you are interested in and remember the OU is flexible, if you don’t like the area you are studying you can change it. Do not be scared if you do not have A Levels or even GCSEs (I didn’t) and most of all have fun!!! Take it from me when you graduate you WILL miss it, I do everyday.”

Summing up his time with the OU he added;

“My experience was the best. I found a university that fitted me and accepted me for my abilities rather than what qualifications I had. It was the most positive thing I did and also the most difficult. I would do it all again if I could.”


About Author

Katy works in the Media Relations team within the Marketing and Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 12 years' experience in PR and began her career in television publicity before moving into the Higher Education sector. She has a BA (Hons) in Politics and Communications from Loughborough University and specialises in ambassador and student stories.

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