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From gravedigger to archaeologist: the benefits of Access to HE

Dr Stuart Prior

Dr Stuart Prior

Press release issued: 18 June 2010

An archaeologist from the University of Bristol who had an unconventional route into a career as an academic, has been chosen as one of eleven case studies from around the country showcasing the benefits of Access to Higher Education courses which this year celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Access to HE courses are designed for people who would like to study at university but who left school without the usual qualifications, such as A levels.

On leaving school, Dr Stuart Prior did a number of menial jobs, including several years as a gravedigger, then travelled around the world.  After discovering a passion for archaeology on an excavation in Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan, he returned to the UK determined to study the subject at university.

Dr Prior said: “As I hadn’t done particularly well at school, taking an Access to HE course seemed to be the most logical way forward.  At first, doing the Access course was a bit daunting but the tutors were fantastic, and they quickly put us at ease, making allowances for the fact that mature students often have to juggle home and family life alongside their studies.

“The academic work itself was a real challenge for me, and I had a steep hill to climb in terms of my research and writing skills.  Completing the Access course wasn’t easy, but it was one of the most rewarding, enriching and valuable experiences of my life, and one which set me in good stead for entrance to university.”  

On completing the course at Strode College in Somerset, Dr Prior applied for places at a number of different universities and received offers from all of them.  He chose to study for an HND in Practical Field Archaeology at Bournemouth University.

Dr Prior then went on to the University of Bristol where he gained a BA, an MA, and eventually completed a PhD.  He is now a Lecturer in Archaeological Practice at the University and also the Admissions Tutor for the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Dr Prior said: “The skills that I learnt on the Access course proved invaluable in my academic studies, and I still use them on a daily basis in my research and teaching as an academic.”

For more information about Access to HE courses, visit Study at Bristol or contact Betsy Bowerman, Mature Students' Advisor in the Widening Participation and Undergraduate Recruitment Office.