You’re never too old to learn

Marion Mather with her degree
Marion Mather with her degree
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Age is definitely no barrier to learning – as Marion Mather will happily testify.

For despite being written off by her teachers as a child, the sprightly great-grandma is starting the new year with a degree of success – literally.

At the tender age of 67, she has been awarded an honours degree in history and politics.

Marion, who has two sons and a large “collection” of stepchildren, grand and great-grandchildren, is over the moon.

She said: “It all started when I lost my husband in June 2008. We had been inseparable and I didn’t want to be sitting at home on my own so I booked myself onto a computer course and it snowballed from there.

“I am dyslexic and going to college was the first time anyone had ever said that to me.

“I knew there was something wrong because as a girl I wasn’t allowed sit the 11 plus and at reading time I was told to get my colouring book out.

“It didn’t bother me because that is what they did in those days and I had a great mum and grandpa and they helped me at home. But I would have loved to have sat my GCSEs. I always regretted that.”

After leaving school at 15, Marion had a succession of jobs, including sewing nappies, spinning cashmere and shop work.

She said: “I was happy but I’m glad I got the learning bug later in life. After the basic computer course, I did another one to bring my maths and English up to standard. I really did want to study – to prove to my children I could do it and, after losing my husband, it gave me something else to focus on.

“The nicest thing was that when I started no-one knew me, or my background, and I could just forget about things.

“When I did my English GCSE and got an A, I was absolutely over the moon. My sons were thrilled. I knew I wouldn’t do as well at maths but I worked hard and got a C.”

She went onto to do a creative writing course and when her college tutors suggested she moved into higher education, she couldn’t believe it.

After passing her foundation course at Runshaw College, with the encouragement of her tutors, she was off to the University of Central Lancashire for a taster session.

At the age of 64, Marian, of Chorley, signed up for a three-year degree course in history and politics. She sat in classes with people young enough to be her grandchildren – and had a ball.

Marion said: “I am the first one in my family to go to university. It was fantastic. I had done other things in between, like creative writing and poetry. That’s where I excelled. I was going to write poetry but UCLan got in the way because it was a three-year course.

“I was the oldest there, even older than the tutors, but it was fantastic and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I knew I would get on with the tutors but I wasn’t sure how I would get on in lectures. I needn’t have worried. Everyone was great. The students made it for me. They were fantastic.”

She still keeps in touch with some of the students and has met up with a few since leaving.

Marion added: “I wanted to pass so I could say ‘I’ve got a degree’. When I got a 2:1 with honours, I couldn’t believe it. It was hard, especially the last six months and I did some all-nighters, just like a student.”

She said she had a lot of support from her family and “brilliant” tutors. Marion officially graduated at UCLan’s December ceremony and is planning another challenge.