Niamh and James Gale

Niamh and James Gale

Degree delight for local couple

Local couple James and Niamh Gale are celebrating after both graduating from the University of Exeter. Niamh has achieved First Class BSc (Hons) Medical Imaging (Diagnostic Radiography), while her husband James has been awarded a PhD in Politics.

Niamh grew up in Exeter and the couple, who have children aged five and seven, have lived in Cullompton for eight years. James is Acting Superintendent for Devon and Cornwall Police, based in Exeter, where Niamh also worked as a Crime Researcher before starting her degree.

Niamh’s new career is already underway: she starts work as a Radiographer at Torbay Hospital at the end of July. Niamh chose to return to University as a mature student because she wanted a change of career. She explains: “I knew that if I was to change career I needed to re-educate myself. The Medical Imaging degree is excellent because as well as being academic, it also gives you the vocational grounding you need to be able to start a job straight away. The year’s clinical practice I obtained during the programme and the strength of the University of Exeter’s reputation have both been essential to me getting this job.”

As well as achieving the highest class of degree possible, Niamh also won two prizes: the Department of Medical Imaging Prize (which goes to the top three students) and the Society of Radiographers Award (which goes to the best student on the course).

Sue McAnulla, Academic Lead for Medical Imaging at the University of Exeter, said: “Niamh has been an outstanding student throughout her time at Exeter and should be very proud of her achievements. Returning to full time education can be a daunting prospect for some mature students, due mainly to the added pressures of balancing study and a home life, and undertaking a course such as Medical Imaging (Radiography) is a huge commitment which requires focus and self discipline. Students like Niamh who not only succeed, but excel, serve as a great example and inspiration not only to other mature students but to the younger students also.”

Husband James has been studying part-time for his PhD, which focuses on counter-radicalisation and policing, for the last six years. Before joining the police, he studied for a Masters degree in Police Studies at the University of Exeter. He says: “It was a challenge fitting academic research around my job and family life and it took a lot of self-discipline. I took advantage of all the support and training that the University offers postgraduate students, and the online research resources were absolutely first class. The police have also been extremely supportive over the last six years by helping me to manage my time.

“I believe there’s a real opportunity to bridge the gap between academic theory and practice in policing and I hope to be able to carry out more research in this area in the future.”

Both James and Niamh have faced the challenge of balancing studying with family life; this often involved working late into the evenings after the children had gone to bed. Niamh says: “In some ways, the fact that we’ve both been studying has made things easier – it would have been harder if one of us had been relaxing in front of the television!

“It was quite daunting at the beginning, but the University has been so helpful in enabling us to manage our studies around childcare. The staff have been absolutely brilliant and there is no way we could have achieved what we have without their support and encouragement.”

Date: 26 July 2012