Ciaran O'Sullivan, BA (Hons) Education Studies

“Plymouth has taught me the great value to be had in working in a group of like-minded people. It is at least as important to learn from your peers as to learn from your lecturers... I have rarely felt so much like I belonged in a place and with a group of people as I have done at Plymouth.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After completing my foundation degree in Environmental Education at Bicton College, I went on to do the final year of the BA (Hons) Education Studies course. My year at Plymouth was great fun. The staff were extremely welcoming and helpful, making the transition from part time to full time study much easier.

I then decided to explore the possibility of further study and successfully secured a studentship to fund my PhD for three years. I’m happy to say that I have just completed my PhD in Education here at Plymouth and began teaching on the course from which I had recently graduated. I now have a full-time permanent contract doing just that, as well as working with postgraduates in various capacities.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

During my PhD I worked on a project researching the cultures of schools that are trying to address the challenge of becoming more sustainable. I worked with three local schools, having completed a smaller ‘pilot’ version of my research last year. It’s great when what you do at university has an impact on your own outlook and helps others at the same time.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

The most difficult thing I have faced was the decision to leave full-time work to come back to university – but it has paid off in spades!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

It is exciting working with people I considered to be semi-legendary in my field: Stephen Sterling and Alan Dyer, to name a couple.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I wish that I had taken more time to enjoy university and everything that goes on while it was happening. I was pretty motivated this time around and worked hard to get a good degree.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Put yourself in the right place and take all the opportunities handed to you. Volunteer for anything and everything that might be useful. This shows how enthusiastic you are.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The course and the team that teach/taught on it are wonderful at Plymouth; I have rarely felt so much like I belonged in a place and with a group of people as I have done at Plymouth. The same goes for the students I have studied with and taught: they restore my faith in humanity if it ever needs it!

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

Plymouth has taught me the great value to be had in working in a group of like-minded people. It is at least as important to learn from your peers as to learn from your lecturers. The University has developed a good network to support all researchers in education, including undergraduates doing smaller research projects in their second or third years.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite memory has to be the celebrations which followed handing in our dissertations at the end of the final year: the weight off peoples’ shoulders was palpable, and we were all so proud of each other.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Absolutely! The place and the people are marvellous, and I am privileged to see the transformations my students go through every single time.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying BA (Hons) Education Studies, please visit our BA (Hons) Education Studies page. For more information about our range of courses within the Plymouth Institute of Education, please visit the school page.


Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are currently doing, please visit the education and teaching interest area.