Jan Southern took an access course at the University of Northumbria before embarking on a degree in occupational therapy and graduating with a first. She left school aged 15 to work in a bank. Complications following the birth of her second child left her temporarily disabled and in need of occupational therapy.
"Student services are realistic. For example, the access guidance I received was very realistic.
"They told me I had to demonstrate commitment to the course. How are you going to show you are committed? It's difficult with kids. They told me I was going to have to fight for a place.
"Once I was enrolled, I tapped into different tutors. There was one I could take my personal stuff to and another I could take my academic stuff to. The attitude was never 'you're not my tutee'.
"I applied for a bursary and was told it would take months. I needed to buy books and pay for child care.
"Then it was sprung on us that we needed to buy a uniform. I was given an emergency loan."