Seventeen to Forty-One – A life at UWS

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Dr Allan Moore, alumnus and lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, reflects on his time at the University of Paisley as a student and University of the West of Scotland as an academic. Dr Moore will be taking up a new post at University of the West of London in January 2022, and we wish him well!

Allan Moore from student to academic

I remember the first day. It was a warm morning in September 1998 and I was seventeen. I got on the bus and travelled to my new adventure on the BA Business Information Technology at the University of Paisley. I would be here for three years, four if I chose to complete the sandwich award, of maybe even a lengthy five if I stayed for the honours year! Or so I thought. Who could possibly have imagined where that first day might lead, certainly not me at seventeen.

As it turns out, I didn’t enjoy my first two years – I knew early on that the subject wasn’t for me, but information technology was the boom area in the late 1990s, and for two years I thought I should keep going. I was miserable though, and I knew that a career in the area wasn’t for me. I want to be clear here – this was purely down to my dislike of the subject matter, and not in any way to do with the teaching or support. Quite the contrary, all of the staff at the University of Paisley were amazing! They were encouraging, open to discussion, and always happy to chat, and it was because of the encouragement of the staff that I knew that dropping out of that degree was not a failure, and that it did not have to be the end of the road for me in Paisley. I would highlight in particular Professor Reggie Von Zugbach de Sugg who was one of the most inspirational, warm, intelligent, and genuine human beings I have ever met. I was so saddened when I heard that he had passed away, as he never knew the impression he left on me.

I didn’t know what was next, or what I actually might want to do, so how could I make that decision? Someone (and I sadly cannot recall who) in the university suggested to me that I should take my time to make the right choice, and that the university offered really affordable evening class provision on a range of modules. This was great, as it allowed me to work and gain experience during the day, and try out a few different things at night to see if anything clicked with me. I took modules in human resource management, in psychology, and in law. There was a great camaraderie amongst those evening cohorts now some twenty years ago, and I learned so much not just from the university academics, but also from the various classmates I was learning with, many of whom already had years or decades of experience behind them in the workplace. I can name several staff who further inspired me from that time, Dr Mecca Chiesa from Psychology, and Valerie Finch and Thorsten Lauterbach from law.

Eventually I reached the point where it was time to decide and jump back into full-time study again, and after the learning of the previous years of evening classes, I knew that I had equally enjoyed the modules I had taken in both law and psychology. It was in all honesty a coin-flip moment as to which I was going to pursue. I sat down with Dr Adrian Lavercombe, who really took the time to discuss things with me what I wanted to do, going over my somewhat of a tapestry of past subjects studied. He pointed out that I had taken more law subjects than any other, including introductory Scots law all the way back in that first year in 1998, as it had been a common core subject at that time. Adrian pushed that coin which had been standing on edge, and it landed law-side-up. In many ways then, I have Adrian to thank for everything I have experienced since that day when I re-entered what was still the University of Paisley at the time.

This time around, perhaps a little bit older, a little bit more experienced, and a little bit more sure of what I wanted to do, I revelled in the university experience. I loved learning about law, and I loved the academics teaching me – Valerie Finch again, along with Professor Angus McAllister, Eileen Mochar (all long since retired now), and others. I gravitated toward the subjects such as criminal law, human rights law, and international law, all areas that have since become ever more important in my professional life. After my years studying at the University of Paisley, I was part of the final cohorts that graduated from the old University of Paisley before the mergers that established University of the West of Scotland in 2007 with a first class honours in law.

Allan graduating in 2007

My plan when I had returned to full-time study had been to go on to enter into legal practice. However that plan was derailed, in a positive way, mid-way through that final honours year of study. I had been following a debate about the future of legal education within the sector, and had read a particular article in one of the law journals that I found to be quite archaic and demeaning in its argument that there should be no opportunity for people with dyslexia to become lawyers. I found the article in question to be in such poor taste, that in blissful ignorance of the ‘normal’ academic publishing processes, I simply wrote a response article and emailed it to the journal editor. The article was published a couple of months later. In my human rights law class that week the module coordinator, and at that time head of department, Valerie Finch approached me and said that she had heard I had an article published, and asked if I had ever considered a career in academia? I had no idea about an academic career path, it was not something I had ever looked into and beyond the teaching aspects I was naïve as to what it would entail. After we had a chat, Val explained that I should either complete a Masters or a PhD if I wanted to pursue lecturing as a career, and mentioned that there might be a possibility of funding for a PhD becoming available at UWS if I was interested.

And so it happened. I graduated at the end of June 2007 with my honours degree, and began my PhD study, becoming the first ever law PhD student at UWS, in September the same year. At the same time I was given the opportunity to develop general research skills through parallel study of a postgraduate certificate in research methods, and also to become an associate lecturer teaching classes across a variety of modules including criminal law, European Union law, and constitutional law. That first year was a real learning curve! During my second year, I began taking classes for the postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education, led by one of the other big influences in my teaching career, Sandy (Alexander) Hutchison. Sandy was only really supposed to allow a PhD student to do the first module of the qualification (necessary for associate lecturers), but when I had a short meeting with him to explain how much I was enjoying the course and really wanted to continue to complete the qualification he agreed to try and secure a fee waiver to let me, which he subsequently did. I will forever be grateful to Sandy for helping me, and was saddened to hear a few years after he had retired that he was seriously unwell and passed away a few weeks later. I made a point of attending his funeral and telling his family the impact his help had on my career.

It was during that second year of my PhD research that the law group advertised for full-time lecturing staff to join the team, and I made the decision to apply, putting everything I had into preparing for the interview when I was shortlisted. When I received the phone call offering me one of the two available posts, I was over the moon. It did mean converting my PhD to part-time study, but it was all worth it when I passed my viva and graduated a few years later with what ended up being my fourth qualification from the institution in the space of ten years.

Allan graduating with his PhD and son (a future UWS graduate?)

During that time working on my PhD, the research I was carrying out had become very much socio-legal in nature, containing elements of psychology, criminology, and architecture alongside the main legal aspects of the work. When there were some big changes in the structure of the law degree on offer, again almost serendipitously a post became available in the criminal justice degree team in late 2013, and after application and interview I moved to that team in the at the time faculty of social sciences. It is here that I have remained as a lecturer in criminology and criminal justice ever since. I have continued teaching criminal law, as well as developing expertise in victimology, comparative justice studies, and some other areas, and even had a spell as programme leader for the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice from 2017-2020. There are too many wonderful people to mention all of that I have had the privilege to work with over these past few years, to mention just a few – Professor Ross Deuchar, Professor Gayle McPherson, Professor Colin Clark, Professor John Struthers, Dr Colin Atkinson, and in particular Geraldine O’Donnell who is just one of the most wonderful people you could ever meet, and I believe the best teacher I have ever worked with.

UWS has given me the most amazing opportunities and a platform to build a career on. Of course there have been the qualifications and employment, but there has been so much more than that. For example, I was able to buy out a semester of teaching to complete a funded project from the Higher Education Academy in 2012 that involved taking students to observe criminal court cases in Sheriff and High Court buildings. I was awarded internal funding from the university several times – twice to take part in transitional justice study trips in Rwanda with the University of Rwanda, and to present research in Oxford, Paris and the Hague as examples. Then there was working as part of a team to research the contribution of the arts to global peace and security for the British Council, and as part of a second British Council project delivering training to culture and heritage practitioners in Nairobi and Mombasa. The university even supported me to develop outward mobility opportunities and take students to Rwanda on a field trip by subsidising the costs for all involved at the beginning of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold just a couple of months later. These are all experiences I would never have been able to have if it were not for UWS, and for that I will always be thankful to the University for supporting me in all of those areas.

In January 2022, nearly twenty-four years since I first walked in the doors of the University of Paisley as a seventeen year-old in 1998, I will be walking out of the doors of University of the West of Scotland, as a forty-one year old, for the last time as I embark on a new adventure as senior lecturer in criminology at University of West London. Well, I say for the last time, but I won’t say goodbye – I’ll say goodbye for now, and lets see what happens later, as you never know when that serendipity might come along again in the future.

Until we meet again UWS…       

Written By Dr Allan Moore, December 2021

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