‘Freshers’ is ITV’s newest reality TV series, which follows a group of young adults as they begin their first year of studies at university. But must you be twenty-something, in order to further your education?

Some adults, who are no longer in their twenties, often mistakingly believe that it is ‘too late’ or that they are ‘not qualified enough’ to get a degree. However, many British colleges now offer ‘access courses’, which enable you to get the qualifications that allow you to proceed to study at a degree level.

Josephine McCarthy, ’38’ (turns 46 in december), is a mother of three and wanted to further her education, in order to broaden her career opportunities. Josephine gained a Diploma in Catering in 1993, which lead on to a rewarding career in the catering industry.


However, after the company that employed her went into liquidation in 2008, Jo became unsure about a future in catering, she said: ‘At the start of 2009 I was unemployed. At that moment I felt lost, and didn’t know where I was heading next. I had always done voluntary work during breaks in employment. In the course of volunteering, I met John Durrant, who suggested doing a degree

‘I felt that I didn’t have the qualifications – that in itself was devastating. John suggested an Access to Health and Social Care course because I was a ‘people person’ and very good with the service users.’

Jo chose to study at West Suffolk College in Bury St. Edmunds, as she had studied there previously and enjoyed the experience. Jo said:  ‘During the first week of the Access course I felt a bit stupid and out of my comfort zone, but within a month the nervousness went and was replaced with curiosity. I felt empowered, and became very excited about having the opportunity to learn new things. All the tutors were supportive, patient and encouraging and taught in a way that grabbed your attention, using a wide range of different teaching techniques – something for everyone.’

After successfully achieving a qualification in Health and Social Care, Jo was then able to study at a degree level, and chose to enroll in a course in Psychology and Sociology. Jo said: ‘These were my two favourite subjects during the Access course, which prepares students very well for the challenge of doing a degree.

‘Taking on a degree is never going to be easy at any age, and it has been one of the most challenging journeys of my life. Doing my degree at UCS Bury St Edmunds was perfect for me, though. Lecturers had time for students as classes were smaller, library staff were more than willing to help with research or any technical issues. Throughout my time I never felt that I wasn’t supported if I had any doubts or worries.’

Jo graduated with a BSc (Hons) Psychology and Sociology September this year, and said: ‘Stamina and determination are required. Taking on this challenge will bring out the very best in you. You just have to have a willingness to learn in order to progress. I loved my experience and would encourage anyone to do it!’

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