Ian Stoddart

Graduating year : 1987.
Course : Diploma in Liberal Studies.

By the time I reached my early twenties I was in a serious rut. I’d left school with virtually no qualifications or prospects, drifting from one menial short-term job to the next. I knew there must be more to life, and that I was certainly capable of achieving something more. But, I had no idea what, where or when that would be. My only experience of the education system came from my largely forgotten school days and vicariously through some distant acquaintances who had accessed higher education. So it was a stroke of luck that I ever heard the name Newbattle Abbey College. A chance encounter with a friend of a friend who spoke of a learning opportunity that may be the antidote to my growing discontent with life. A college where one could study academic subjects – such as ‘philosophy’ – that I had only ever been vaguely aware of. With the seed of possibility sown, I contacted Newbattle and was sent information on the two year Diploma in Liberal Studies and an application form. A year or so later I found myself, suitcase in hand, walking along the imposing grand entrance driveway to the college, in the late autumn sun.

I cannot emphasise enough just how much the two years spent at Newbattle changed my life (for the better) forever. My first year was spent as a residential student. I remember with fondness how I was initially overawed by the impressive, historic setting and what lay ahead. It was both novel and exciting to be part of the shared learning experience. However I soon settled in – developing friendships and taking my first steps into the world of academia. Indeed I discovered fairly quickly that actually I could understand and critically analyse literary and academic texts. It was a revelation, due in no small measure to the quality of the college teaching staff. Collectively didactic yet nurturing, and sensitive to my many doubts and anxieties, they guided and inspired me. Over the course of two years I studied English Literature, Philosophy, French, Sociology and Political Theory. I graduated from the college in 1987, obtaining my Diploma in Liberal Studies with credit in English literature and French.

Post Newbattle, I studied for an MA in social sciences at the University of Glasgow, followed by employment in social services within the council. My employer later sponsored a placement on an Open University degree course, from which i graduated with a BA (Hons) in Social Work. I remained in employment with the council for 25 years, accumulating extensive experience in crisis intervention with all service user groups. Although I retired in 2015 I have since become involved in voluntary work. Moreover I now have time to indulge my passion for travel, photography, and am in the process of trying to learn Spanish… ¡no es fácil!

To this day I firmly believe that none of my subsequent life achievements would have been possible had I not attended Newbattle. It fostered personal growth, self-belief, confidence and a love of learning that remains central to my life-ethos to this day. When I look back over my academic achievements, it is the time spent at Newbattle I remember most fondly. It has come to symbolise a moment in my life, at a crossroad, where I was presented with an opportunity in essence to be ‘reborn’. In that sense, I believe the Newbattle experience molded renaissance men and women of us all.