At home in academia

Guest posts

Category: Staff

10 August 2018

Self-confessed 'average' school student Michael Duignan grew in confidence after joining university through Clearing - and started to see a career in academia unfolding before him.

There’s something I should admit upfront. Before university, I was a distinctly average student. I had a lack of confidence in my own ability and pretty much just coasted by on C grades with not a whole lot of direction. Still, I applied for university and figured that I’d probably coast through my time there as well. That all changed once I arrived at ARU.

During my first year here, I made the decision to get a little more involved in university life. I signed up to edit the sports section of the student newspaper, joined the badminton team, and started playing football – and out of nowhere I had this huge peer network around me. I found myself growing in confidence. My grades got better and better, to the point where I began to see a life for myself within this little world of academia.

Thriving on a challenge

I applied for a Masters and spent about half of that course studying at Hanze University in Holland. The learning was so much more intense and you had to push yourself every day or else you’d be left behind. But I thrived on the challenge and it cemented my love of learning. My peer network was growing still, as was my passion for what I was doing and I could see a career unfolding in front of me. After graduating, I spent a stint in government departments, researching (of all things!) the training and development of PhDs – apparently I still couldn’t get away from the academic world. Then, one lunch break, I spotted a PhD opportunity at ARU and I knew it was my time to return.

Now I’m lecturing, writing research papers and working on books – in my ‘spare’ time – on all these fascinating areas that I never thought would be open to me. Currently, I’m looking at how small businesses are impacted by the coming of cultural and sporting events, from local festivals right up to the Olympics. Either they can be locked out of the tourism economy or they leverage it for the good of local people. I’ve even been invited to speak on TV and radio about the subject and publish my findings for the brightest minds in our industry to read.

It’s an incredibly liberating world, where I get to interact with young minds and see what the next generation is thinking, while also developing new ideas in my own field. Thinking back to the younger me as an A-level student, I never thought I’d fit into this world, but thanks to a decade of hard work and support, it’s now where I very happily call home.

By Dr Mike Duignan

What is Clearing?

Clearing is an opportunity to reconsider your options, and join a university where you can study something you really want to learn about.

You can apply for uni through Clearing if

  • you didn’t apply before the UCAS deadline
  • your grades are different to what you expected
  • you’ve only just decided to go to uni
  • you’ve changed your mind about what or where you want to study since you originally applied.

Find out more about Clearing



The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.