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Mature student realises her academic dream

Posted on 13/07/2011

As Royal Holloway celebrates the achievements of its students during Graduation Week, one PhD student proved it’s never too late to achieve academic success.

After a life-time of thinking she wasn’t academic, Lesley Mitchell finally proved otherwise as she received her PhD at the age of 52 at Royal Holloway, University of London this week.  

Proudly standing in her graduation gown, Lesley realised just how far she had come from the shy awkward 16-year-old who left school with just a handful of CSE and O-Levels.

“I hated school and couldn’t wait to leave,” Lesley reveals. “I was very shy and a bit isolated at school. I wasn’t one of the popular girls in a gang and I just had a few close friends. It didn’t even occur to me to go to university back then. I just wanted to leave and get a job.”

Lesley started working at Bentalls department store in Bracknell before taking up a series of administration roles where she progressed to management level. But when she found others were being fast-tracked to promotions ahead of her because they had a degree she became frustrated and knew something had to be done.

With a little push from husband Neil, Lesley signed up to an access course and after a gap of 30-years found herself heading back to the classroom.

 “I was very nervous going back. I worried that I wouldn’t do very well, but it was different this time. I found it wasn’t a chore and I was awarded “student of the year” on the access course as I had a distinction in every module.”

With renewed confidence, Lesley decided to pursue her passion for psychology and applied to study at Royal Holloway.

“When I came to the open day and saw the Founders building and heard the inspirational talks from the lecturers, I knew I had to study here,” Lesley said. “Despite being the oldest in the class, I never felt any different. We all had the same anxieties about our essays and assignments.”

Lesley now says that going to university was the best thing she could have done and would urge anyone who thinks they have left it too late to further their education to think again.

“If it’s something you want to do, you’ve just got to do it,” Lesley said. “Just forget the past or any bad experiences you may have had at school. Going back to university is the best decision I have made.”  

Click here for details of Royal Holloway’s next Open Day where you will be able to find details of the courses on offer. 


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