Glittering prizes for Jay James

Jay James May

Jay James May dropped out of school at 15, but a passion for literature led him to the University of Sussex, where he has scooped a hat-trick of prizes and a First-Class degree in English Literature and Film Studies.

Jay James, 27, grew up in south London and in Kent, but after an unhappy time at school he dropped out before taking exams and ended up packing rice in a factory.

Jay James says: "My move into higher education was the continuation of a journey that began when I was 21. I decided to get an education and went to night school, where I studied for my GCSE and AS levels. I taught myself A2 English.

"The decision to read English was based purely on my passion for literature and my own desire to write. I had no idea that I would want to become a scholar before I landed in Sussex."

Jay James' hard work and talent was rewarded with a First-Class degree and three prizes awarded by the exam board:

  •  The University of Sussex School of English prize for the highest ranking student in the School;
  •  The Mary Dove prize for the highest ranking English Literature student;
  •  The Siobahn Kilfeather Prize (held jointly with another student) for the best dissertation mark across all subject areas in the School of English

Jay James adds: "It came as a massive surprise to win these prizes. My family have been incredibly supportive, along with Dr. Andrew Webber, my night school tutor, who has been a constant yet pragmatic voice of encouragement. So too was Sussex lecturer Dr. John David Rhodes, who has also played a large part in my academic growth, through his own unique blend of criticism and encouragement. But there are many other friends and colleagues who have played their part.

Jay James' academic journey continues - he has won a scholarship to study for an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture at the University of York  and hopes to continue after that with a doctorate.

Last updated: Wednesday, 21 July 2010