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Psychology student tosses obstacles aside to graduate with a first

UEL students give advice at Law Clinic

Mike Fox suffered a serious head injury last year, set to graduate with a first

Mike Fox is set to graduate from the University of East London with a first in his BSc (Hons) in Psychology, crediting the unwavering support of the School of Psychology “family.”

Graduation signifies the end of a journey, often long and arduous, but for Mike, the trip involved extra twists and turns, and his UEL story speaks of his commitment.

Mike, 54, was the first person in his family to go to university – his father, grandfather, and generations before them were dockers. “No one considered going to college or University, it just wasn’t part of the culture,” he said.  

He joined the distance learning degree in his 50s while working full-time as a probation service officer. Keen to progress in his profession, the British Psychological Society-accredited degree with the School of Psychology offered exactly what he wanted.

“I can’t my fault my UEL experience. The support and the quality of the teaching and engaging lecturers enabled me to engage with the material and made me think, I can do this.”

In January 2019, a day before he was due to sit an examination at UEL, Mike suffered a serious head injury to his prefrontal cortex during a freak accident at his home. He was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and he would suffer the effects for the next six months. Forced to give up his job, Mike chose to continue with his studies.

With concentration and study time leaving him completely exhausted, Mike persevered as he found the coursework engaging and just wanted to carry on.

Mike is grateful to the supportive “family” at the School of Psychology, including his dissertation supervisor Professor Mark McDermott. He said their advice and guidance gave him confidence in his abilities and the desire to carry on.

“Professor McDermott’s regular feedback and guidance on my research reading allowed me to do the best I possibly could, scoring 80% in my dissertation.”

With a 35-year career behind him, from customer service roles to working as a careers advisor and with offenders in the criminal justice system, Mike thought he’d seen it all – but education showed him there is “so much more to the world”.

When Mike started his degree, his goal was to pass. “To achieve a first has been phenomenal.”

Recalling the “brilliant” employability module in his first year led by Dr Stephanie Davis and Max Eames of the School of Psychology, Mike admitted that having worked as a careers advisor “I thought I knew everything, but they opened my eyes to the possibilities.”

Mike will be starting in a new job at the Hampton Trust charity later this month, where he will be working with domestic abuse perpetrators.

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president, University of East London, said, “We are incredibly proud of Mike’s hard work and perseverance in pursuing his ambition to study a degree in psychology. His experience highlights the transformative power of education at a careers-led university and supporting one another in these unprecedented times.”