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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 Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning 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.