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Teaching student Gillian Dixon has overcome challenging personal adversity including chronic illness and suffering a stroke to graduate with first class honours from Edge Hill University at a ceremony held on campus today.

Gillian, 40, had initially started her studies whilst working for the University’s Academic Registry department in 1999 and was enjoying her Organisational Management degree before pausing due to the birth of her son, Joseph.

Sadly, it was shortly after this time that she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic relapsing form of inflammatory bowel disease. The severity of the disease was extreme and required extensive surgery.

“Rare complications led to more than two years of requiring intravenous feeding. Cruelly, this also led to me contracting meningitis and suffering a stroke.  I had no choice but to withdraw from my studies and retire from Edge Hill on the grounds of ill health,” Gillian recalls.

“Throughout this horrific period, the tremendous support of my husband Neil, also an Edge Hill employee, and the wider support provided by loving family and friends, helped to motivate a remarkable return to health,” she said.

After becoming well enough to return to work as a Teaching Assistant, Gill was once again bitten by the ‘study bug’. She completed a Level 3 Diploma in Support Teaching and Learning which prompted her to investigate ways of accessing Initial Teacher Training courses.

“Thanks to superb advice from Edge Hill, in particular Pre-Entry Advice and Guidance Officer Ann Kennedy, I enrolled on the BA (HONS) Teaching, Learning and Mentoring Practice degree. This set my career aspirations on a whole new path.

“I was subsequently offered a place on the BA (HONS) Primary Education with Qualified Teacher Status degree. After graduating with distinction, I studied modules for the final year of the QTS programme,” Gillian said.

Gillian said she has one message for anyone considering studying at Edge Hill: just do it!

“The challenges throughout my four years of study have, at times, been vast. Attempting to juggle academic study, full time work, family commitments and professional practice has required dedication and perseverance.

“However, along every step of the way, I have received exceptional support and guidance from Edge Hill tutors and support staff. The continued encouragement of Neil and our son, Joseph, has spurred me on to never lose sight of my end goal.

“If I were to give a message to anyone considering embarking on degree study at Edge Hill, it would simply be – do it, it may just change your life!” Gill said.

With her studies complete and first class honours in hand, Gillian has commenced teaching at a primary school in her hometown of St. Helen’s.