Birkbeck Inspires: Conversations with Alumni – Mickey Mayhew

Former Birkbeck Student Mickey Mayhew has recently been nominated for the Positive Role Model (Disability) Award at the National Diversity Awards 2020. Mickey was permanently excluded from school aged twelve, with no diagnosis of his autism and thus eventually no qualifications either.

He was later diagnosed with Asperger’s, Autism and Dyspraxia. He then embarked on a hard-won reclamation of his education. From one GCSE and one A-Level, he gained an undergraduate degree followed by three postgraduate Masters (two at Birkbeck) and then a PhD, becoming ‘Dr Mickey Mayhew’, this with the help of his supervisor, Dr Shaminder Takhar.

We caught up with Mickey to find out about his Birkbeck experience and what he is currently up to:

Why did you choose Birkbeck to study at?  

Because of the flexibility of the classes in terms of scheduling and being able to study in the evening. And of course because of the stalwart reputation!

What did you study and why? 

For my first Birkbeck Masters I studied Creative Writing, under Julia Bell and Russell Celyn-Jones, and for my second Masters I studied Gender, Culture and Society with Jonathan Kemp and Paulina Palmer. I wanted to not only be a writer but also continue my undergraduate sociology education.

What were the highlights of your time at Birkbeck? 

Meeting my wonderful classmates and having my mind opened up to so many new possibilities, points of view, and worldly experiences; education really does broaden the mind.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been told? 

Don’t let your disability – and especially anyone else’s view of it – drag you down.

What has been your favourite moment in your career? 

Just getting a job in the first place; when you leave school aged just 12, your CV can appear pretty…pockmarked, to put it mildly. That, and getting my first book published. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

A writer. 

What advice would you give to current students? 

If I can get a Masters degree (or three) and a PhD after being permanently excluded from school as a kid, then I can’t imagine anything that might stop you from achieving your academic goals. 

How has your life changed during the COVID19 crisis? 

My life hasn’t changed all that much during the crisis, because issues of social isolation continue to abound for people with autism regardless. The lockdown may in fact allow people to feel what those with autism experience almost everyday.

If you would like to tell us what you are doing during lockdown and be featured on our next blog, please email

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Alumni & Student Ambassador Officer

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