Businessman Ian Baggett tells how Durham inspired his business career
Geography graduate Ian Baggett, whose dissertation inspired him to found a successful construction firm has spoken of how his time at Durham University prepared him for life and a career in business.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated in 1994, followed by a part time PhD also at Durham Uni.
What subjects did you study prior to arriving in Durham?
A level: Maths, Physics, Geography (and General Studies!).
Which degree programme did you study at Durham and why?
I chose to study BSc Geography. As far as I was concerned it was the best department and the best subject. I wanted to study a subject to open my mind rather than close it and I felt that Geography was ideal for this.
What were the highlights of studying at Durham?
There are so many highlights and I look back very fondly on my time there. College life as a whole, Geography field trips (from Malta to Teesdale!). I also loved my time involved with University sport where I was a member of the British Universities Tennis team and was a part of BUSA winning team, plus I made many life-long friendships. It was a really unforgettable experience.
What was the topic of your third-year dissertation?
'The Geography of Student Accommodation in and around Durham City' - a perfectly chosen topic which set me on my own career path in property development.
What are you doing now and how did your degree help prepare you?
I am the proud founder / CEO of one of the largest private property companies in the North East, Adderstone Group. My undergraduate dissertation doubled up as a business plan and allowed me to borrow £13,000 against a £2,000 inheritance from my grandmother. Over the years, this loan swelled to £40m, a £100m asset base, a £200m development portfolio and a great team of approaching 200 employees. My daughter asked me a few weeks ago what I would do if I didn't do the job I have and I had no idea how to answer. My team and I are responsible for significant regeneration and economic development in our home region and make a great living in doing so. No one project or day is the same.
I arrived at Durham Uni Geography Department from Hookergate Comp, Chopwell (aka 'Little Moscow' and one of the toughest secondary schools in the UK). I recall my first essay set by Professor Pocock as 'Discuss the differences between space and place'. I loved the theoretical stuff although I went on to do a more practical degree (and eventually a PhD).
My Geography degree opened my mind to the whole world and helped me see everything from a wider (and, when needed, deeper) perspective. It gave me ambition, a thirst for knowledge and zest for life as well the confidence to become relevant and make a difference.
What other skills did studying at Durham help prepare you for the world of work and your future career?
One of the most important skills I think I took from Durham was how to get along with people from all walks of life. As one of the only 'Geordies' in the Uni in those days, it would have been very easy to walk around amongst all the 'rahs' with a chip on my shoulder. I quickly became proud of my identity and where I had come from, whilst learning to respect the different outlooks and views my fellow students had. I reflect now on Durham as a beautiful, safe enclave that seemed to leave us all with a measured confidence and desire to make the most of life.
With hindsight, what else would you have liked us to have taught you?
I thought the balance was just right. We weren't so much taught but given the opportunity to learn and grow up.