Phil Redmond

Creator of 'Brookside'

Social Studies, Liverpool University

'I came from the almost cliched working-class background: council estate and comprehensive school. I left school with four O-levels and one A-level and went to work as a trainee quantity surveyor. After five years I gave up to try writing and that was when I clashed with the Oxbridge- dominated world of television and realised I had missed out on something. I hadn't got the membership badge required, so I decided to go back to education.

"Luckily I'd already had to get two more A-levels to join the Institute of Quantity Surveyors so I had the qualifications. The tutor interviewed me in September and let me in in October. I chose social studies because it enabled me to study an eclectic mix of things like sociology. criminology, economics and modern history. It gave me an insight into what had happened to me and broadened my awareness. I'd get straight As in sociology because they were examining my kind of background which I found really weird - lots of middle-class people studying tenement blocks. But I definitely found myself doing more work than was probably necessary.

"Because I hadn't gone straight from school I had a clear purpose, so I often felt I was standing in the stream while everybody else was drifting past, just carrying on from A-levels. I think I got more out of it because I had been out in the real world. That's why I think everyone should have a break year or there should be a rule that you can't go to university in your home town. And because I've seen so many students just drifting, I think more and more thought needs to be given as to how practical courses are.

"The student politics all seemed a bit juvenile but I got involved with the drama society. I wrote a play called One Man's Dream which they put on. I didn't really party much - it's a small minority that comes into lectures drunk; most get on with worrying about normal things like where the next pound is coming from. I had a flat about 400 metres away from the university and did a bit of writing to make money, so it wasn't too bad.

"University was a brilliant time for me. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. It helps you to develop your thoughts it you've got them and it's an ideal opportunity to do some reflective thinking, something that in today's world it's increasingly hard to find the time for. Having bumped into the Oxbridge mob I did have a bit of a chip on my shoulder and it immediately laid that ghost to rest for me. Sociology is one of those subjects that's looked down on but I think an understanding of society is one of the greatest things you can have. I have used my degree in everything I've done.''