'I know the value of flexibility for mature students'

November 19, 2004

Dame Sandra Burslem is well placed to understand the difficulties facing mature students - she enrolled on her first degree as a 28-year-old single mother.

"I was a single parent and I enrolled at university once my youngest son started at primary school. I had to juggle my course with childcare," said Dame Sandra, who gained a first in politics and modern history from Manchester University.

"I studied full time, but I was often forced to choose my course options because of where they came in the timetable not because I wanted to do them. I had to fit in around the children," she said.

"My tutors were incredibly helpful. In my third year, one lecturer taught me individually because I couldn't get to lectures. It was a kindness I have never forgotten. I know the value of flexible courses in allowing mature students to study."

On graduation she received an award to conduct research at Manchester University into government-industry relations. "I loved the work, but there was no guarantee of a permanent job and I had a family to feed," she said.

Instead she joined Manchester Polytechnic in 1973 as a lecturer in politics and public administration. "I've been here since," she said.

Manchester Metropolitan has a student population of 33,000 and is the UK's second largest university after Manchester.

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