While Labour leader Tony Blair was telling the Big Issue magazine his views on getting beggars off the streets, one of the magazine's vendors was putting his words into practice.
Andy Loughe, who has been selling the magazine in Liverpool for nearly a year, spotted an advertisement for a Liverpool University course in last week's Blair interview issue. He has now signed up for a ten-week evening course, starting this week, which provides two hours of tuition a week in learning skills.
The Liverpool course, one of a number of university schemes for adults wanting to return to education, is aimed at those who have the qualifications but lack the confidence to start a degree. Students practise writing and structuring essays, learn how to take notes and find out whether they have what it takes to return to study. Completion of the course does not lead to a qualification or guarantee a place on a degree programme.
Patricia Jenkins, mature student adviser at Liverpool University, said: "An important part of this is demystifying higher education because a lot of people still think the universities are full of the sons of dukes and earls. Mature students can also be intimated by 18-year-olds who have been writing three essays a week for a couple of years before going to university."
Mr Loughe was last in formal education 15 years ago, when he achieved an ambulance training course qualification.
"I have considered higher education for a good while and been scared to do it because I have been out of it for so long," he said. "This course seemed tailor-made. It is also a way of filling my evenings because the accommodation I'm in isn't ideal."
Mr Loughe has been living in a hostel since losing a job with a tied home in Ireland over a year ago.
He would like to take a degree in disability studies, to combine a qualification with his ambulance experience to give him the best possible chance of finding a job.