From sore thumb to 2:1

June 7, 1996

Pam Perkins will never forget being told by an irate parent that it was mature students like her who were keeping teenagers, like his son, out of university.

Mrs Perkins, who started her BA at the University of Wales five years ago when she was 52, said: "At the beginning I stuck out like a sore thumb. I would stand outside the lecture hall with my heart thumping, simply trying to pluck up the courage to walk in when I knew all these eyes would be on me.

"At my first seminar, the young students stopped talking when I came in the room because I think they thought I was the tutor. It took some time before I think they accepted me as a fellow student."

A feeling of intellectual inferiority also dogged Mrs Perkins in the initial stages of her degree although her final upper second in educational psychology and languages has put paid to any self doubts.

She said: "They were so bright, confident and articulate that I felt inferior. They would ask questions and participate in discussions whereas I had to force myself to do so. But at the end of the day I gained a better degree than many of them."

Mrs Perkins, like so many other mature students, feels that the university could have offered more practical support. In particular she feels that all universities should run special induction groups for mature students. She also feels there should be more in the way of clubs and societies for mature students.

In truth, Mrs Perkins's success owes a great deal to her own stoicism. She said: "In my case, I had left school at 15 and it was always in the back of my mind to return to education. But bringing up three children left me with no time. It was only when all three were through college that I said now it's time for me. I was determined, you see."

Mrs Perkins is carrying out various pieces of research for academics at the university and is saving the money this earns her with a view to taking an MA, MPhil or even PhD.

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