Stuart Baker, 41 and originally from Liverpool, lost both of his parents by the time he was six. What followed was difficult couple of years living with a guardian until social services intervened.
Stuart was eventually fostered but his experiences had already left their mark and he struggled growing up. At school he felt he didn’t fit in, he was later expelled and left school with no qualifications.
Stuart said: “I always loved learning, when I first started at school I was in all the top sets, but I fell in with a bad crowd and lost my way, eventually leaving with no GCSEs.”
These days Stuart says he is finally settled, studying for a BSc (Hons) Biology degree at Edge Hill University and living in Ormskirk with his partner and newborn baby. He has rediscovered his love of learning and has ambitions to study for a Masters degree and PhD, eventually becoming an academic.
Offering his advice to future students Stuart said: “I’ve always just worked to pay the bills, but now I’ve got a passion for what I do. I want to learn everything I can and eventually I’ll be able to start a career I love. I also hope to give back and help other kids in care, passing on what I’ve learnt and helping them get a good start in life.
“I want to make it clear that anyone can go to university. No matter where you’ve come from and what has happened in life, how old you are or your educational background, university is an option.”
But Stuart’s life wasn’t always so simple. In the years after leaving school Stuart studied business at college, went to catering school and has had a varied career working as a chef and running his own businesses.
Despite the outward appearance of success, he suffered some major setbacks. His grandmother passed away, two of his friends, both care leavers, committed suicide, and he lost his business in 2019. These events, combined with trauma from his past, led to a breakdown. Feeling lost and directionless decided he needed a new start.
“Everything was going well for a while, working hard and doing my best to stay afloat, but when I lost people important to me and my business went under all the feelings I’d bottled up since childhood came out. I was in a bad way for a few years suffering from severe depression,” Stuart added.
“It was definitely the most difficult period in my life, but everything changed when I came to Edge Hill’s open day.”
After moving to Ormskirk in Lancashire he visited Edge Hill University for an open day and was drawn to biology. Given his past experiences in education he assumed he could never get into university, but after talking to the course tutors he was persuaded to apply for the Fastrack: Preparation For Higher Education course which starts with an extra six-week introductory course to bring learners up to speed.
Stuart said: “I came to five different open days at Edge Hill looking at all the courses they offer. Coming onto the campus instantly made me feel like I could be a part of something and having new goals really helped me see a new path.
“I was fascinated by the biology course and talked to the tutors about my background and lack of formal education, but they made it clear that was no barrier to studying. They suggested I join Fastrack and I jumped at the chance.
“It’s been challenging, it’s like learning a new language at times, but I’ve had a lot of support including being awarded a scholarship which has helped financially. I’ve now completed my Fastrack course and started my degree, I love it.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about Fastrack courses at Edge Hill can book onto the Fastrack information evening taking place on 9 March 5.30pm – 7pm.
February 28, 2023