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Exploring the Past for a better future

Joanne Wesley WilliamsJoanne Wesley Williams

Exploring the Past, a unique access route to higher education at Cardiff University, has this year helped another seven local adult learners to transform their lives and progress onto a degree scheme.

Joanne Wesley-Williams, 40, and Penni Bestic, 59, are two of the seven students in total who have successfully completed the Exploring the Past Pathway through the Continuing & Professional Education and are now embarking on a degree at Cardiff University.

The award-winning Pathway is celebrating the completion of its second year having already secured degree places for two adult learners in the 2010/11 academic year. Run collaboratively by the Centre for Lifelong Learning and the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, it is designed to give adult learners the opportunity to experience research-led teaching first hand and progress towards studying a degree in archaeology, history or religion.

Like many other adult learners, Joanne missed out on higher education after leaving school. She decided to try the Pathway as a route back into education and used it as a means to better her life.

Joanne said: “As a mother of three young children it’s important to be a positive role model, but educationally I had nothing to sing about after leaving school 25 years ago with just my GCSEs. I’ve now found a way to change that and feel much better placed when encouraging my children to study hard for the future. Each course has provided me with a different set of skills, broadening my knowledge and boosting my confidence. By the time I had completed a few modules I felt I was ready to further my education and now I have a completely new outlook for the future. I have been given an opportunity to return to study and hopefully carve a new career doing something I love.”

After failing to find employment after redundancy and also battling with mental health issues, Penni decided to enrol on the Pathway and do something useful with her time.

Penni said: “I think when I started Exploring the Past I didn’t really believe I would be doing a history degree but the amount of support from the tutors, both academic and pastoral, made it seem achievable. I think it has also helped my mental health, I still have a lot of self-management to do, but help from the student support services has makes this possible. I’m really enjoying my degree course so far. It’s stretching but manageable. I am aware that I’m the oldest student but there are three of us who are definitely mature and we give it each other a lot of support. I’m very glad I did Exploring the Past as it was brilliant preparation. As to what I want to do when I finish: I’m not really sure as I will be close to retirement age. I think I would like to try and do a Masters.”

The Exploring the Past Pathway provides students with real life changing opportunities which have been recognised by the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) – the national body which represents part-time education in universities. The Pathway received a highly commended award from UALL in April 2012.

Courses are taught by people with both expert subject knowledge and the ability to support, inspire adult learners in a flexible timescale, framework and environment. More courses will be starting in January 2013.