Why do a Masters in your 30s?

Tito Akindele is highly qualified. So why has he come back for more?

Open the door of a lecture theatre or laboratory full of students beginning a taught Masters course this month, and you might expect to find it predominantly populated by twentysomethings eager to build on the knowledge and experience gained from their first degree.

While that may still be true in the majority of cases, there are some striking exceptions to this stereotype. None more so than Tito Akindele, 38, who's among the 35 or so students a few weeks into their course leading to an MSc in cancer cell and molecular biology at the University of Leicester. The merest squint at Akindele's CV will show evidence of a PhD from Imperial University, four years' post-doctoral work in the field of organic chemistry in Japan, and a couple of spells working as an industrial chemist, for both Fuji and Pfizer, in the UK.

Part of the clue as to why this accomplished academic has chosen to take what appears to be several steps down the academic ladder lies in the fact that this course is, although described as a taught Masters, heavily weighted towards research.

"I quickly want to learn the basics of molecular biology and then apply it to research in a new field [cancer]," he explains. But, with his impressive academic and research track record, does he really need to go back to the classroom? The answer is yes, because there's very little overlap between the scientific areas he's inhabited for nearly two decades and the (more biological) areas where cancer research is based. He sees both an opening and a need for more academically-trained chemists to enter this field.

"At the moment in the UK, there aren't enough cancer scientists who have a chemistry background," he explains. "Most come from the life sciences rather than, like me, the physical sciences."

So, despite his experience, in these first few weeks he is regularly being taken out of his comfort zone. "It's challenging and stretching, but that's the point of doing it," he says. "I didn't want to take on something where I could have just read a book. Also, the lectures are more like seminars, delivered by professors going to the frontiers of their fields. They're all designed to gear you up to doing your own research and getting published in the cancer field."

There are five taught modules, covering the genetics, pathology and toxicology related to the development of cancer, plus sessions on research methods, and data analysis. Assess-ment is by written assignments and end-of-term exams.

"At the end of December we'll all be assigned to a research group or institute at the university," he explains. "From that point on, it will all get very research intensive."

Most of Akindele's fellow students on the course are a lot younger then than him, with about two thirds of them having done undergraduate degrees in the UK, and the rest coming from abroad. But he's not in the least bit uncomfortable sharing lecture rooms with students who are far less advanced on their education journeys. "I don't have a problem sitting down with people half my age, because they'll learn from me and I'll learn from them. Taking more exams doesn't bother me at all either, because the aim of exams is not to pass them and get a high mark – the aim is gaining knowledge." And as a former Leicester University student (Akindele graduated in chemistry in 2000), he gets a 10 per cent discount on the Masters fees of just under £5,000.

"To be honest though, if it was twice the price I would still do it," he laughs. "Because it's what I want to do."

Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

KS2 Teacher with SEN responsibilities

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS2 teacher with SEN responsibi...

Year 5 Teacher

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments