A grandmother who has juggled family life with fostering and volunteering has graduated from Edge Hill University with first class honours degree.

Frances Walker from Southport achieved top marks in her BSc Criminology and Criminal Justice degree whilst looking after her own three children, including one who has autism, becoming a grandmother and also opened her home up for a time to a young person who needed some support and a place to be.

In between all this, the 44-year-old part time student has squeezed in countless hours in unpaid volunteer work at the University’s Student Information Centre as well as Freshfield Animal Rescue Centre and the Southport Healing Centre.

Despite her responsibilities and personal challenges, she has overcome every hurdle and hopes her story will be an inspiration to others who want a career change.

She said: “So many people think that if they have family commitments they can’t go back to university but studying part time makes it so much more achievable if you have lots of other responsibilities. I had to be very self-disciplined and getting assignments done while there is a baby crying in the background was a challenge at times but when I continually got good marks it really spurred me on to do well.

“To have been able to complete my studies and get a first is a double achievement for me and I hope that I will inspire others in similar situations to follow suit.”

Frances never dreamt that she would go back to study. Before she got married she worked in a bank helping with public relations but once she became a mother she dedicated her time to her family. However, following her divorce she decided she would go back to education completing an Access to Higher Education Course before starting at Edge Hill University.

She said: “As soon as I visited the campus I fell in love with the surroundings and I instantly felt at home. The course was so interesting and the department is very research-active, which made me decide to study here and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Although I missed out on the student experience such as going the Student Union bar, being a mature student gave me a different perspective and I have made so many lovely friends. It is not to be feared to study with so many young people because we were able to share different views and I felt comfortable with them. I think some appreciated the views of a mature student too.

“I’m proud to have studied at Edge Hill and I would recommend the University to anyone who is thinking about Higher Education. It is an exceptional place and I’ve had so much support here.”

She is now hoping to work in the voluntary sector within an organisation such as Victim Support.