An Edge Hill graduate has been awarded first class honours and a 98 per cent dissertation mark in her Counselling and Psychotherapy degree despite initially thinking University wasn’t an achievable option.

Lesley Rimmer, 37, from Bootle, was forced to drop out of sixth-form college when chronic ill health affected her confidence and sense of self-worth. It was only at age 34, after a 15-year stint working in a bank’s finance department that she applied for a place on Edge Hill’s Fastrack access to higher education course, encouraged by her husband.

“I had always known I wanted to work with people, however lacked the necessary qualifications and confidence to further my education,” Lesley said. “Due to gynaecological issues, we were unable to start the family I had always dreamed of, despite various infertility treatments. When the opportunity arose to take voluntary redundancy my husband supported my decision to take it and change my career. My experience of being unable to have children and my mental health has meant I had seen counsellors from varying modalities over the years and I knew that this is where my passion lay. Saying that, my confidence was so low that when I had my interview for the Fastrack course I had convinced myself I wouldn’t be offered a place!”

“During Fastrack I struggled with a lack of confidence in my academic ability,” she continues. “However achieving a distinction meant I felt more confident approaching my first year as an undergraduate. Throughout my undergraduate programme, I battled with my confidence issues, at times I had considered dropping out, however my personal tutor Dr. Irene Dudley-Swarbrick was always there, and had an unwavering belief in my ability.

“She went above and beyond offering writing workshops and video recorded sessions to ensure we could achieve our best. Each time I got a great mark I was spurred on, believing ‘I can do this’. I think the real confidence boost came when I achieved my mark in my Literature Review dissertation. Working with Irene had awakened my feminist consciousness so I wanted my review to be both feminist and political, and I focused on my personal experience of not being able to have children as the driving force. Dealing with a subject that is deeply personal to me meant I was able to really immerse myself in the process and when I achieved 98 per cent in my dissertation I felt my confidence soar.”

Describing her experience of mentoring other ‘Fastrackers’ during her time as an undergraduate, Lesley said:

“I feel I have a deep understanding of coming into the university environment as a non-standard student, and therefore was able to offer the Fastrackers a great deal of empathy and understanding. It was incredibly rewarding to offer examples of my own experience to help alleviate any concerns they may have had. It also boosted my own confidence as I was able to recognise how far I had come in my own journey.”

Lesley intends to return to Edge Hill to study an MRes, this will be a continuation of her undergraduate dissertation, drawing on her own experience of being unable to conceive as the basis of an auto-ethnographic research study.

“Being a qualified counsellor now means I am able to work reflexively to a high standard so this will facilitate me in achieving this,” she said. “Once I have completed my MRes, I wish hope complete a PhD, also at Edge Hill, in the same area of political feminism. My career goal is to set up my own private practice as a psychotherapist and become research active within the field of counselling and psychotherapy.”

Click here for more information about Edge Hill’s Counselling and Psychotherapy courses.