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Pamela & Anthony

BA Social Work/BEng Mechanical Engineering

Married couple achieve top grades together

A married couple have graduated with first-class degrees from the University of Bradford, after entering higher education as adult learners.

A first class result

Pamela and Anthony studied Access Courses in Social Work and Engineering respectively at Leeds City College, before joining the University of Bradford.

Both graduated in July 2019, with Pamela achieving a first-class degree in BA Social Work and Anthony achieving a first-class degree in BEng Mechanical Engineering.

We caught up with Pamela and Anthony at graduation to chat about their experiences of studying here.

An image of husband and wife, Anthony and Pamela Richardson, on the day of Anthony's Graduation.

Anthony and Pamela.

You both came to University via an alternative route. Can you explain your journey?

Pamela: We both went to Leeds City College and did an Access to Higher Education course. I did it in social care and you did it in...

Anthony: Engineering and science.

Pamela: Then we applied to loads of universities. We were going to move south at one point and then we decided to move here because of our families. We came through Clearing.

What was it that inspired you to come to university? It’s quite a brave thing to do...

Anthony: I was doing predominantly 9-5 retail work, really boring jobs. Pamela wanted to get a career whilst I was doing this and she told me about the Access Course. I looked up engineering and thought ‘I might as well give it a go, why not’. I wanted to get a career out of it, rather than do a 9-5 and not earn enough money to go on holiday and things like that.

Pamela: I did it because I volunteered for around four years at a children’s centre and I thought ‘I'm going to just go to university and make a career out of what I like doing’.

When you arrived did you feel there were services and support available to you?

Pamela: Yeah, all the tutors and everybody were really good. We just had a photo with them outside. I've got a good bond with all my tutors and Anthony has as well.

Anthony: Yeah, I’ve also got a learning disability thing as well but having that extra support has made me feel like I can do whatever I want here and nobody will judge me. In terms of lectures, the lecturers understand me and it’s felt really good.

That’s the thing they don’t say about degrees, they make you a better person as well as what you learn.

Anthony, BEng Mechanical Engineering

You’ve got two young children. How did you find balancing your university life with that?

Anthony: Easy, really easy.

I think because we went down the access route, the kids were so young that they just got it. If we were going away to do work they’d be like ‘yeah, he’s doing work, that’s okay’ and they understood straight away.

It became second nature really.

Pamela: If they were ill or anything, the lecturers were understanding. If we couldn’t come in because we had the kids they’d say ‘yeah, that’s fine’, stuff will be on the VLE and so on.

Anthony: It didn’t feel like it was family and university separately, it felt like it was family and university together. It worked really well.

Pamela: I think we found it pretty easy to be fair...

Did you spend time on campus together throughout the course?

Pamela: Yeah, we used to meet up for lunch or we’d go to the library if Anthony had loads of stuff to do.

Anthony: It made it easier that we were both on campus together.

Pamela: Yeah it did, because we’d come in together and even if Anthony was in later in the afternoon and he didn’t have anything in the morning, he’d go to the library and vice versa.

Anthony: It’s a great excuse to do the work whilst you’re already here.

Pamela: It also made commuting easier because we just used to come together.

It sounds like you were both really keen to do it, but how did you find the initial adjustment?

Anthony: I think being a mature learner, you’re used to that kind of pressure and having to do things yourself. When we had a lot of work to do, it’d be ‘okay, let's go and do it’. There was a small adjustment period but because the Access Course prepared us for it.

A lot of the A Level students found it more difficult than us. We were mentoring the A Level students on how to manage their time and, because we already had to do that having kids, it actually wasn’t that big of an adjustment.

Pamela: I also feel like the first year was really helpful because it slowly got us into it rather than just chucking us in. I found that an easier adjustment period.

Do you think the route you took into higher education impacted the experience you had studying here?

Anthony: Well, if I had gone down the A Level route before, I wouldn’t have been doing engineering.

Pamela: Yeah, I wouldn’t have done social work either.

Anthony: We wouldn’t have got the degrees we wanted to do, but because I’m more mature I knew exactly what I wanted to do and was more driven. If I’d done it when I was younger I’d have probably dropped out doing the wrong degree and not got a degree.

How easy do you think it’ll be to adjust back to a working lifestyle?

Pamela: He’s already started!

Anthony: Yeah, I’m starting a PhD now, so I’ve gone straight back into studying. I started two weeks ago. Bradford made me realise that I wanted to do this more, and I knew that if I didn’t I’d miss it. I’m going to do a 3-year PhD down at Cranfield University and hopefully get into academia. Then I’ll come back up here and work.

What are your plans Pamela?

Pamela: I don’t know yet. I’m waiting until September because the kids are off and I don’t know if I want to do social work, or do social work but in schools - like safeguarding.

Anthony: The good thing about your course is that you can do so much with it.

Pamela: Yeah, social work is such a vast thing, you can do whatever. Even though I might not do social work, I’ve got a degree that’s really useful for what I want to go into.

I might even go into social work in education because I like the education bit of it, or I might even do my masters - I don’t know yet!

Do you both feel that your degrees and your time here at Bradford has helped prepare you for whatever you want to go into?

Pamela: Yeah, massively.

Anthony: I was saying to Pamela, think about where we would be without this...

Pamela: I feel like I’m a lot more confident as well. When we first started and I had the interviews and stuff, I was bricking it. Now I could just do it like that. It’s really helped me to develop.

Anthony: That’s the thing they don’t say about degrees, they make you a better person as well as what you learn. When I had interviews before I’d just shut down, but now I’m confident. I’ll apply and if I get an interview, I’ll own it. I got on a PhD course without having a Masters which is really rare.

If you could give a bit of advice to someone who is in a similar position to the one you were in, what would you say?

Anthony: Just do it. Seriously, once you’ve started doing it and you’ve got through that adjustment period it becomes second nature. It just becomes easy.

Pamela: Anthony would do work and I would do mine and it wouldn’t be 'ah, why’s he not spending time with me'. It would be 'we’re both doing work together'.

Anthony: There were literally never any arguments or stress due to university work because we understood each other. We understood that the other person was doing the work so it wasn't really a problem. 

When we started we were thinking 'should we do it at the same time?' and we were second guessing it constantly. I'd say, rather than second guessing it, just go for it.

Pamela: Some family members said 'maybe you should do it after him, don’t do it at the same time as it’s going to be too hard', but we just stuck with it. I’d say just stick with it. It’s hard at some points but then once you get past it it’s really good.

Anthony: And then before you know it, you’re both here graduating with first-class degrees...

Adult learners at the University of Bradford

The term 'adult learner' is used to describe anyone who is considering applying to university for the first time, has had a break from education, and/or is applying with non-traditional qualifications.

Here at the University of Bradford, we welcome applications from people of any age. Adult learners make up around a third of our undergraduate community and make a fantastic contribution to life at the university.

If you're considering joining us as an adult learner, check out our courses to see what opportunities could be available for you.


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Richmond Building, University of Bradford