I was never very academic at school and had little idea of what I wanted to do in
life. My favourite subject had always been geography, which seemed to have something
to do with the real world, and I applied to study this at University. Fate intervened
and I performed badly at A-
Having no idea what to do, I stayed on in the sixth form to improve my A-
This was when I discovered that I actually liked academic work. Free from the restrictions
of formal teaching I found that I could enjoy reading and writing about things that
interested me. I decided to re-
Sociology at Kingston was a life-
As an undergraduate I became involved in the BSA. I joined in 1971 in order to attend the annual conference on Deviance — the hot topic of the day. At the conference I saw and heard those who, until then, I had only read about in the textbooks: the high point was an evening meeting of a study group, when I sat next to Howard Becker and contributed to the discussion that he led. I can’t remember what I said: it was obviously far less memorable than the occasion itself.
This was a great preparation for beginning a research degree. I was accepted to study for a PhD at the LSE, and I got a permanent lectureship a year later. That was in 1972, just about the last time it was possible for someone without a PhD and with only a year of research behind them to get any kind of academic job. My job was at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, and I began, at last, to teach the subject that I had been studying. I was determined to try to learn from the negative experiences that I had at School and hoped to emulate those who had inspired me at College.
I have continued to enjoy teaching and researching in Sociology. From Strathclyde
I moved to Leicester and then to Essex, probably the strongest social science University
in the UK and the best Department of Sociology in the country. I finished my career
at Plymouth, working as Pro Vice-
A Biographical Journey
This short account of education and early career was prepared for a section of ‘biographical journeys’ into sociology on the British Sociological Association’s website.