My name is Peter. I am currently a PhD student, here at the University of Bristol and I'm studying Contemporary American Fiction.
I didn't do very well at school and I didn't really enjoy school. I didn't leave with any qualifications, I think I got a GCSE in Art. We had no books in our house; my father was a lorry driver. A bit of a tough guy I suppose, really! He was a very successful boxer when he was younger and his father, was a miner.
Universities were absolutely exclusive. There was a particular kind of person that went to university and then they had a career, and then ran the country. There are other people who worked in factories, that drove taxis and delivered milk and newspapers. My first job after leaving school was in a clothing factory. I was 16 years old and I was incredibly unhappy and actually depressed.
There are four years between leaving schooling and taking the Access course and I spent those four years thinking, 'This is going to be the rest of my life. I'm not sure how long I can manage it!'
I had an uncle and he had a bookshelf and he had Descartes and Dickens on his bookshelf, and you know, that just opened up huge intellectual horizons for me, thinking that the world isn't just mundane and two-dimensional. It immediately helped me to start daydreaming about the future.
The skills that the Access course gave me were fundamental. They were the very basic things like sentence structure, which, if you haven't had a particularly strong educational background, you might not even know what a grammatically correct sentence is! They offered things like Computer Literacy and Information Technology, I'd never owned a computer! The Access course just taught me how to study, in a very basic way and also how to structure your study time. It's an ad hoc environment that's there to nurture your thinking and to progress without frightening you off.
Coming to Bristol was the most positive experience of my life, surrounded by very bright people and wonderful tutors. They don't really care where you've come from. You're there! Receiving a First Class from the University of Bristol for me was huge. It was kind of a vindication of all of the work that I'd put in. I'm doing my PhD full time now. Without the Access course I wouldn't have come to university, I couldn't have survived and wouldn't have known what was expected of me.
I don't know if the doors were intentionally closed before, but they were certainly very difficult for someone like me to open. Access courses essentially just offer you a new life, don't they? It offers you a chance to be the kind of person you want yourself to be. To meet your aspirations. That's what it's done for me!