Derek Mawby-2

Army reservist who left school with no qualifications makes ‘student of the year’

An army reservist who left school with no qualifications is recognised with a top student award and gains a trailblazing security degree. 

An army reservist who left school with no qualifications is recognised with a top student award and gains a trailblazing security degree. 

Derek Mawby, 36, from Carlisle, left school exactly 20 years ago this summer without any formal qualifications, but today graduates with a BSc in Investigative Practice, and a ‘student of the year’ prize.  

A cadet since the age of 12, Derek joined the army in 2004 at 17, enjoying the structure and opportunities it opened for him including training courses, and worldwide travel, including two tours of Iraq.  

But after leaving the army, he was involved in a serious road traffic accident that resulted in Derek suffering frontal lobe brain damage that required him to relearn how to walk and talk. 

Following the accident, he suffered from PTSD and depression, and there followed a few difficult years for Derek. However, reuniting with his childhood sweetheart was the impetus for him to turn his life around. 

He joined the army reserves and got a job when sufficiently rehabilitated, but he was never completely satisfied.  

Then in September 2019, he reached a crisis point. His mother had recently passed away, and this shattering moment led him to take stock of his life. He took annual leave, and it was during this time he spotted the University of Cumbria’s BSc Investigative Practice. He immediately made enquires had an interview two days later and began the course the following week. 

Speaking about his spontaneous decision, Derek said: “what drew me to the course was the modules, I knew they would help me to achieve my dream of assessing risks in hostile environments. Quitting my job to study was leap in the dark and it was hard, but the course provides the tools for anyone to learn. My course leader Iain gave me a chance and I didn’t want to let him down.” 

Alongside the challenging demands of studying for a full-time undergraduate degree, Derek continues to serve in the 4th battalion Duke of Lancaster Regiment, a branch of the army reserves, and is training to be an officer. To support his application, he also completed a Level 5 Certificate in Management and leadership alongside his degree and works as a recruitment mentor for the army reserves based in Carlisle Castle.  

Derek is a student from a non-traditional background whose experience was recognised instead of qualifications. He applied for the course through Clearing, the system that matches university applicants who have not had an offer with institutions that still have unfilled places. 

Senior security lecturer Iain Stainton said that he was immediately impressed by Derek because he was so focused. He said: “what drew me to Derek was his energy and his appetite to learn. He has a wealth of military experience he could bring to the course, so it was a no-brainer to offer him a place, and he did not let me down.  

“Derek has worked his socks off and taken every opportunity to open to him. Considering the number of commitments, he has, he is amazingly organised. He is the perfect student, so it gives me immense pleasure to award him this prize.” 

On winning the award, Derek said he was absolutely ‘overwhelmed’.  

Derek was awarded the inaugural Security, Intelligence and Investigative Practice Undergraduate Student of the Year Prize. 

He was one of the first cohorts to graduate from a new programme BSc Investigative Practice, which draws on military and law enforcement skills and applies them in commercial and non-commercial settings.  

Inspired by Derek’s experience, his partner Melissa applied to study BSc in Mental Health Nursing and is currently completing her first year at the university.  

True to his energetic nature, Derek has several options on the go after graduation. He is applying for jobs, studying for a master’s in security and risk and there is the possibility of a tour of Oman in November with the 4th Battalion.