Traveller's son shows way

April 26, 2002

Bangor University's new students' union president Andrew Wilson can attest to the value of widening participation. The 22-year-old son of a former traveller is an "untraditional" recruit who is turning his chance of higher education into a success story.

Not only do his social and educational backgrounds place him in the widening participation target zone, but he has also been working to encourage others to consider university as a realistic option.

As student-volunteering organiser for the union for the past year, he has been arranging for Bangor students to go out into the community to help children from low-income families and adults with learning difficulties.

He said: "The people we are working with may not be suddenly deciding they want to go to university because of what we are doing, but they are getting used to the language of higher education and are able to see that students are just normal people like them. Hopefully that will help break down any misconceptions they may have."

Mr Wilson was born in Bangor and raised in a caravan. The stigma of his traveller roots and being slightly overweight left him quiet and lacking in confidence at school, and teachers expected little of him. His GCSE results revealed he was a star pupil in mathematics, physics and chemistry.

He said he "fell into A levels" and ended up dropping out of the sixth form. But, after a string of jobs, he joined a BSc leisure computing technology course at Bolton Institute. He found the work easy, and applied to Bangor for a BSc computing and business course. His lack of A levels meant he was accepted on condition of completing a foundation year.

Mr Wilson said: "Going to university has made a tremendous difference to me. I was a bit of a loner at school, but since coming here I have met a lot of people who are on the same wavelength. It has really broadened my horizons."

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