UCLan graduation success: Leyland lad leaves with top degree marks despite serious health problems

Matthew Clarke is celebrating achieving a first class degree after a very difficult educational journey.
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A Leyland student has gained a first-class business degree from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) despite enduring serious health complications and a family bereavement during his studies.

Matthew Clarke, 23, who is autistic, dyspraxic, dyslexic, and suffers from anxiety, depression, and a life-long bladder problem, says it “still feels surreal” to be graduating with a first because his road to success has been so difficult.

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The former Balshaw’s CE High School and Runshaw College pupil, said: “It’s amazing how anyone took a chance on me but the course leader for the foundation year, Barry Marshall-Kalina, believed in me. I wanted to make myself, my family and Barry proud and am glad to say I produced work of a very high standard.”

Matthew Clarke celebrating his graduation success, as he leaves UCLan with a First Class degree.Matthew Clarke celebrating his graduation success, as he leaves UCLan with a First Class degree.
Matthew Clarke celebrating his graduation success, as he leaves UCLan with a First Class degree.

As well as Matthew's health concerns, further difficulties began at the end of his first year of study when his grandmother, who he had cared for over the previous seven years, passed away.

Matthew said: “This time was especially tough, and it was really quite hard for me to process it all.

“When she was in hospital my grandma made me promise that I would never stop caring for people, which is why I began a volunteering position at Leyland Day Care Centre to support the residents with social activities.”

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Matthew then began to suffer more serious health issues in 2019 when he experienced stomach problems that led to a spell in hospital and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease.

Despite initially managing the condition with medication, Matthew eventually had an operation to remove parts of his bowel and had a stoma fitted, which meant he had to take three months off university to recover.

However, Matthew managed to catch up with the help of his family, tutors and UCLan support services, with his hard work and determination paying off as he now leaves with top marks.

Matthew said: “When I returned to university I put all my energy into my studies but I was still having to get used to a new way of living due to having a bag attached to me all day. This was a constant reminder of the trauma that I had gone through. To help me deal with my new situation, I made use of the counselling service at UCLan so that I could talk to someone from a neutral perspective. This really helped me to come to terms with everything and to also carry on with my studies.”

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Matthew has spent the last four years studying at UCLan, first as a foundation student and then as an undergraduate, but now he plans to do a master’s degree in management at Liverpool John Moores University, where he will study part-time as he navigates through his health issues.

Matthew added: “Without the help of my support network, which includes my family, friends and tutors, my degree result wouldn’t have been achievable. It definitely helped having approachable tutors at UCLan who always gave constructive feedback and made sure to link academic theories to the real-world.

“I would just like to say how thankful I am to every single person that has supported me and stuck by me for the last four years.”