Sue Jackson, professor of lifelong learning and gender at Birkbeck, University of London, restarted her education with an A level at a further education college after her first child was born.
She later took a bachelor’s degree at The Open University, followed by a master’s in women studies and a PhD in education.
She is now pro vice-master for learning and teaching at Birkbeck, after posts at adult education centres, further education colleges and other universities.
Her work into the impact of retention programmes on mature students is one of 15 studies recognised by the HEA’s doctoral programme awards, announced on 23 May.
The awards enable supervisors to take on PhD students to look at key areas of pedagogic research.
It has also announced 13 international scholarships for 2012-13, which will support individuals undertaking research outside the UK.
One of the scholarship winners, Catherine Easton, senior lecturer in law at Manchester Metropolitan University, said she was pleasantly surprised to receive the grant, given that applications were open to academics in any discipline.
She will be travelling to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to research the use of interactive technology in the classroom and whether it has an effect on student success.
Dr Easton already uses clicker technology – similar to the handheld devices seen on television game shows – to allow students to interact with her lectures, but is hoping to trial the use of mobile phones to garner student responses.
“There are not many studies that look at the actual tangible results of interactive technology,” she said.