I left school at 16, with very little in the way of qualifications. Those that I did have employers did not really understand. The United Kingdom government had introduced a new school-leaving exam for sixteen year olds a few years before. It did not last many years, and was eventually replaced by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (G.C.S.E). I left school, and got a reasonable job working for a state industry, and later got other jobs easily because of that experience. However, I always felt that I could have done better at school, and was always very sad that I had not done as well as I could have done, but felt that there was no way back.
In my thirties, I finally took a correspondence course and passed a General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) Ordinary level in English language. G.C.E was the post 16 exam that was only for Grammar school children and those youngsters that just missed passing for Grammar school. It was difficult, and tiring, trying to fit in the study with work and caring for my home and relationship but I was so proud of myself when I passed. Over the next two years, I took four more correspondence courses ending up with four more certificates. Including several at G.C.E Advanced level, this is the examination that usually young people take at aged 18 to prepare them for university. I had gone as far as I could by correspondence course, and The Open University was not an option for me because of my family responsibilities at that time.
I really missed the intellectual stimulus of study, writing essays and the idea of working towards something. One day I saw an advertisement in the newspaper, for an open day for mature students wanting to study part time at a local University. I went along and was fascinated, I found out about the courses I was interested in and took an application form, which I completed, posted and forgot about. One day a letter arrived which asked me to come for interview at the university, I was so surprised.
When I walked into the interview room, the interviewer said, “I really do not know why we are interviewing you, since your educational qualifications alone more than qualify you for entry onto the course, and your place will be here in September”.
I paid my own fees, and books for my course were rather expensive so my education had a cost in money, as well as time. I studied at University for between 4 and 12 hours a week, but also spent more time in study at home, public libraries and elsewhere. The course took me six years, a long time, but was well worth it.
I really enjoyed my time at university, and learnt much that was not even on the syllabus, but my proudest moment was when I, capped and gowned, twenty-five years late, with my husband and Mother in the audience received my bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the chancellor of the University. My husband framed my degree certificate, and it now hangs on our bedroom wall. It and my computer are the things that I would take out of the house, if there were a fire. The whole experience of educating myself, and my experience of university gave me a confidence that I did not have before.
So if that missing degree haunts your life then go for it, there are ways that you can do it and fit it into your life and responsibilities. It is better to try than to spend the rest of your life wishing that you had.