‘An Open and Shut University’

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
(Reinhold Niebuhr - 1892-1971)

If you don’t want to read my whinge – look away now.

Back in October 2012 I was 9/10 of the way through my final module for a degree in psychology.  I had only the final exam to go and then the prize that I had spent six years, thousands of pounds and as many hours working for would be mine.

I wanted this degree so much – not just for myself but for my Lovely Mum, who had been interested in psychology long before it became fashionable.

A week before the exam I was involved in an accident that left me in a great deal of pain, with an infection that wouldn’t go away, poor mobility, stress, anxiety, deterioration in pre-existing health issues, the loss of my job and career, and in a horrendous situation where I was stopped from talking to many of my friends and colleagues.

Legal constrictions prevent me from writing any more about that horrific year but those who know us will understand the impact the accident has had on me and on those I hold most dear

I went ahead and took the exam because I thought it was too late to cancel.  The combination of pain, strong painkillers and antibiotics put me on another planet and I fell asleep during the exam. I’d already managed to get Lovely Friend very lost in the middle of a not nice bit of town when she took me for the exam.  Apparently I had the sat nav upside down. I don’t remember much about it.

Not surprisingly I failed the exam and was offered a resit  – for a mere £97.00. My GP didn’t feel that I’d be fit to take the exam in April 2013 and I was booked to take it a year after my original exam  – in October 2013.

I was studying for another course and was relieved when the exam venue was changed to one closer to home.  The exam for that course went well and so I felt optimistic about my resit – especially when I found that I passed, and passed well.

Because it had been a year since I’d studied the resit subject I was told that I would have extra tutorial support.  It never materialised and I had great difficulty getting any information that other students taking the exam had access to. I dug out my books, drew up a revision plan and set to – optimistically – despite all the other hassle that was still occupying my time.

I tried so hard to revise but for the first time in my life, the ability to retain information had gone. I would sit for hours going over my notes and reading the course books but pain would intrude after an hour or so and taking the painkillers sent me to sleep. Subjects that I had found so interesting and enjoyable a year before now seemed to swim on the page in an unintelligible sea of words.

At the time of the resit I was embroiled in the legal wranglings that I’ve been gagged about – so needless to say  – my mind was elsewhere most of the time.

When I went into the exam hall – same place that I been to earlier in the year and successfully passed an exam – I felt nauseous.  Hot, cold, y head began to swim. I turned the exam paper over and my mind went blank. I hadn’t taken any painkillers in case they made me fall asleep in the exam again so three hours of sitting still took its toll .  Halfway through the exam I had to go out to the toilets and throw up.

I did my best. I answered all the questions. I tried to pull every piece of information out of my fuddled head.

It wasn’t good enough. I failed.

I was told that the only way I could get my degree was to take the whole year again. Not only had the fees had gone up, but this seemed so unfair given that I had passed all the coursework and the residential  school section of the course.

There was one other chance to salvage my degree – aegrotat credit.

This is a bare pass that is awarded if a student is no longer able to continue their current studies due to ill-health, are on the last course for their degree and are permanently unfit to study. You don’t have to have a terminal illness – but apparently it helps.

I discussed this with my GP.  We were both of the opinion that the content of the course had become so linked with the stress of the past year that no matter how many times I took the exam, I would not be able to pass due to the physical symptoms I experienced.

I applied for the aegrotat credit and they turned me down because they didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be able to study any more. They suggested that I took the course again.

In desperation I wrote to the vice-chancellor – who NEVER deals with this kind of situation. I was passed back to student services who advised me to get further medical proof regarding the permanent cessation of my studies.

I paid for another letter from my doctor.

They rejected it on the grounds that the phrase ‘for the foreseeable future‘ doesn’t mean permanent.

They offered me the opportunity to progress to a level 2 complaint but said that I would need further medical evidence.

I went back to my GP – who not unreasonably was rather peeved that his wording had been questioned.  We put together a letter that we thought would be acceptable and in it he emphasised that it wasn’t just the difficulty in concentrating on my studies, the pain and stress of sitting through three hours in an exam hall, but it was primarily the fact that the content matter had become so inextricably linked with the accident and subsequent issues that it had caused a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. He also felt that the stress of wrangling with yet another bunch of bureaucrats was having an adverse effect on my overall health and preventing me from getting better.

I sent off the letter.

On Friday I received the reply.

It is with regret that they have turned my application for aegrotat credit down again because they still don’t believe that I am unable to continue my studies permanently.

I can progress to a level 3 complaint if I want to.

They even came out with a heap of sanctimonious claptrap about their compassion and understanding for students with disabilities and that they could make alternative exam arrangements for me should I wish to take the course again and give them some more money.

I don’t understand their logic.

I have no intention of studying with this organisation again – ergo – permanent end of studies.

Both exams were failed by a couple of points and I had done all the work to pass the rest of the course.

I have provided them with more medical evidence than you can throw a stick at – and despite the fact that the people making the decision are not medically qualified – or psychologists even – they have the power to rubbish everything my GP has told them and branded me a liar.

Do they think I am going to sneak back and take another course if they give me the degree I have worked so hard for?

Is it really just about the money or have I come across some petty-minded group of administrators who move the goal posts according to their whims and don’t like giving in?

Hub and I have talked and I think it is about time I drew a line under this farce.

I learned a great deal in the past six years, so the knowledge for the degree is mine and nothing can take that away.

The establishment that I have been studying with has shown a total lack of compassion, understanding and integrity so – is their degree really worth the paper it is printed on anyway?

In my opinion they have moved away from their original ethos and become greedy and grasping in an effort to compete with other educational establishments.

I want no more of it then.

To be honest, I never use the string of initials after my name that I’ve earned over the years.

I need to think about my health, my family and friends – not a bunch of anal retentives wandern amongst concrete cows  whilst they make up rules to suit themselves.

Shut the door  – close that particular book – and move on.

With particular thanks to Paul McGee  – The SUMO Guy


Oh and Flower, if you are still reading this and are about to put a another thinly disguised rant about me on FaceAche – don’t bother – just unfriend me please – time you moved on too.






I didn’t mean to hurt you – I’m sorry that I made you …. fall over




Back into the Spanish sunshine mode.  My Valencian roots are emerging, together with the need to laze, eat and occasionally go walkies in the fresh air.

My Mum has taken to sitting outside and studying at the garden table – which I like particularly because I have to keep an eye on her.

The Big Boy is home from this Uni place and he seems to have been bitten by the sunshine bug too. Every other time he’s been home he stays in his room with big books – occasionally popping out to have a shower or cook food that smells wonderfully of garlic.

My Dad goes off to the work in the CAR but he doesn’t take me.  I am sad for a little while when he leaves but overjoyed and bouncing when he returns.  I think he is just as pleased to see me although it usually means he has to take me out for a walk no matter what time of day it is.

My Boy spends most of his time shouting at friends on his computer thing – he shouts because he has something over his ears – he can’t hear himself and he can’t hear my Mum and Dad when they shout at him either.  I love it when he comes downstairs because he gives me lots of fuss and !

My Mum had this idea of getting some kind of paddling pool for us to cool our toes/claws in – they tracked one down and my Dad set off in hot (very hot) pursuit, snatching up the last one in the shop from the sweaty hands of some other doting dad.

I didn’t like the noise the long snake thing that spits water made and I was quite wary of the big blue plastic shell that appeared in MY yard.  My Mum sat on the bench with her feet in the cold water and smiled. It really was a very hot day.


My Boy decided to put me in the blue shell.  He lifted me up and I stood, uncertain and wary, up to my elbows in cold water.  Then he poured the water over my back and tail.  I remained where I was, shivering, and  my Dad took pity on me and told my Boy to get me out. I shook water all over my Boy for that.

I have given the blue shell a wide berth since but my Mum still likes it because she can watch the blackbirds flying into the ivy with food for their fledglings.  I am NOT allowed to harass the blackbirds however tempted I am.

The other new garden acquisition is less scary. So overjoyed was my Mum to find that her eldest son wasn’t a vampire after all (with all that garlic – no chance!), she and my Dad bought him a sun lounger and a long lime green cushion to go on top.  It looks very inviting but once he sat down there was very little that would move my Big Boy upright and away from his extremely large and heavy books.  He is currently reading ‘Organic Chemistry’.  My Mum is reading ‘Cognitive Psychology’, my Dad has ‘Shares’ magazines and my boy is shooting BBs out of the bathroom window (he’s not allowed to do it if any of us are in the garden but sometimes he forgets).

So, yesterday afternoon we are out in the garden – well – me, my Mum and my Boy.  My Dad has gone back to bed because he was up at five o’clock in the morning and my Boy was in shouty mode again.

We had an unexpected but extremely welcome visitor – on a bicycle.

Bicycles make me anxious at the best of times and unexpected visitors make me very excited.  My Mum sent the Big Boy for Scooby Snacks so that I could be bribed into submission.  He went, my Mum grabbed my collar, I pulled and she went down – in her words – lie a sack of spuds.

Since the bad crate bashed her toe, my Mum’s balance has been decidedly off.  She tries to fall on soft things – sofas, chairs, my Dad –  but on this occasion she failed.  Her knee hit the ground, her elbow hit the brickwork edge of the flower bed and her head hit the side of the garage.  My Big Boy, my Mum’s friend and I watched her go down in slow motion.  Ouch. We were all very sympathetic and concerned.

She was okay though (she whispered to me later that if we’d been alone she would have cried a bit – but it wouldn’t have happened if we’d been alone because I wouldn’t have gotso  excited.)

With a stiff upper – how do humans do that? – she got up slowly and staggered over to the chair she uses for studying al fresco. Big swollen knee, bleeding elbow and bumpy head, but my Mum and her friend had a nice long chat and by the time my Dad came down she had lost the green tinge and was smiling again.

It has been a difficult weekend with my Mum making some important decisions.  She’s had some help in this and I’m putting some links (who am I kidding – dogs don’t do typing or computers or links!) at the end of this piece of FICTIONAL writing.

I’m sorry Mum.  I didn’t mean to pull you over and hurt you.  I’m just an anxious guy. xxx

SUMO – Shut Up and Move On