Gabby Keating

What are you doing now?Gabby Keating.png

I’m a PhD student studying into COVID-19’s impact on a student’s transition out of compulsory education.

After leaving South Craven Sixth Form I took a year out of education to reflect on what I wanted for my future and to gain experience in a working environment.

Although I didn’t receive my predicted grades (due to personal circumstances) I knew I wanted to continue studying, so I applied to study Sociology and Psychology at the University of Bradford after one year of working. Whilst juggling work and study, my degree became my passion project – the subjects of social class and inequality became topics that really resonated with me. After graduating in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic with a First Class Honours degree, I knew I wasn’t ready to finish my studies, so I submitted a research proposal to do a self-funded PhD in the Summer of 2020 and began studying in October 2020.

I’m the first person from my family to study at this level (which has proven difficult to navigate the world of academia) but I’m enjoying every aspect of it, from conducting my own research to having the freedom to delve into a topic that means so much to me.

My research is looking into the impact of COVID-19 on a young person’s transition out of compulsory education, and the experiences of young people from disadvantaged social backgrounds. After such an incredibly difficult year for those completing their Level 3 qualifications, it’s crucial that we’re aware of the sacrifices and hardship that many students were subjected to as a result of the pandemic.

As someone who comes from a working-class family, the mere idea of studying at PhD level would never have entered my mind as a possibility. Nevertheless, it’s apparent that academia needs people from every social background to provide informed discussion from lived experience, and I hope to continue researching to voice the experiences of those that do not often have the platform to do so.

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

Spend more time enjoying and less time stressing!

My A Levels seemed all-encompassing, and the pressure I put myself under was completely unnecessary. Although it came from caring about my grades, it made my final year of school a time that didn’t reflect my overall experience. I always enjoyed learning at South Craven and especially my A Level subjects (French, English Language and Psychology).

My final piece of advice would be take a deep breath, smile and feel safe in the knowledge that your grades are not the end of the story.

What are you most proud of?

Pushing myself to do more. As I’ve been working alongside both my degree and PhD, I’m also proud of my determination to make the most of my circumstances and not take any opportunity for granted. Alongside my studies and job, I’ve also taken on the role of a research assistant at university, and am due to start researching with the Institute of Community Studies after receiving a Civic Scholars Award.

I’m also very proud of my degree – I’d love to share a photo of my graduation, however COVID wasn’t too fond of that idea!