Andy Cartlidge, 49 from Hanley, left school with only four GCSEs and worked as a croupier at a casino until his cousin convinced him to apply to university.
After completing the Step-Up to Higher Education course, Andy progressed onto the BSc (Hons) Computer Science degree and has now secured a graduate internship.
He explained: “I needed a change, but the idea of that change filled me with a deep unease. Other long serving staff members were telling me I should do something different. But how do you do that when it’s all you have ever really known, and you are in your forties? I felt I was going to be stuck there forever.
“There were two main factors that changed things – one was the pandemic and the other is Sara, my cousin. At least three or four times she brought me a university prospectus. I think one day she hit me on the head with it – and I eventually relented and agreed to go to an open day.”
Andy joined the ten-week Step-Up to Higher Education course, which is designed to help students who want to return to education develop their academic writing, referencing, research and critical thinking skills. Tailored guidance on student finance is also offered to support students progressing onto undergraduate degrees at Staffordshire University.
Andy said: “It’s probably the biggest change I’ve done in my life and I’m 49 now. I didn’t expect to be here, doing this.
“It took a while for me to understand that I could get funding as a mature student and I could actually do this but once I started that was it really. My only regret is I should have done this ten years earlier."
He added: “I am hugely grateful for all the support I had from my fellow students, especially in my first year where I struggled to fully understand some of the concepts introduced. On more than one occasion, someone stayed behind after class or spared their free time to help me grasp these things.”
Alongside his studies, Andy was a peer mentor and worked as a student ambassador at open days and other events across campus. He also delivered a speech to hundreds of fellow graduands and guests at his graduation ceremony.
Before graduating, Andy secured a six-month graduate internship through the University’s SDIPs scheme and is working on a database project with a local security company.
Andy said: “For me, one of the main reasons for coming to university was to challenge myself to learn something new, to develop new skills, to meet new people and to gain understanding of the world around me. And I feel I’ve achieved all that.”
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