One summer graduate is rewriting her future, after gaining an honours degree with Journalism and Politics from the University of Stirling.
Shumela, 35, left school at the age of 14 with no formal qualifications and initially assumed that was the end of her academic journey.
However, after five years at Stirling, she will now pursue further study, having been accepted to the University’s Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE) postgraduate course.
Shumela said: “I always assumed an academic career was out of the question because of my lack of education. The University’s Access program significantly changed that and, once I had completed it, I chose to stay at Stirling for the duration of my undergraduate degree.
“I’m looking forward to beginning life as a postgraduate student and gaining a teaching qualification. After five years here, you’d think I would have had enough but I’ve become part of the Stirling community now – it makes it very hard to leave!”
After earning a place on a BBC Scotland Apprenticeship at Pacific Quay in Glasgow in her early 20s, Shumela was inspired to pursue a degree in journalism.
She said: “I wanted to build on my experience with the BBC and felt that studying journalism and politics would allow me to do this. I was also impressed by the practical aspects of the journalism degree – this experience has proven to be very useful throughout university and will continue to be as I move forward in my academic career.”
A mother-of-two, Shumela held the position of Faculty Officer for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities for three years and served as the Students’ Union’s Alternative Student Officer – a new role created to engage with students from non-traditional backgrounds. She also sits on the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) Student Advisory Board.
Shumela said: “I have done so much during my time at Stirling. Working with the Union’s Vice-President for Education and Engagement was a fantastic opportunity. I’m very proud of the work we have done on widening access.
“In the second year of my undergraduate degree, I held a conference at the Union, which brought individuals from across the sector together to look at how we communicate with students from a variety of backgrounds.
“I have been so involved in university life, even though I am older than most of my peers and have children. The Students’ Union allowed me to get involved with many different activities: this made my university experience and I’m grateful to everyone I worked with there.”
Shumela won two awards during her time on the Access programme; one for the most improved grades, and the other for excellence. However, she recalls university was not without its tests.
Shumela added: “The biggest challenge I faced coming to university was the constant feeling that I did not deserve to be there. As a mother, I felt like I was being selfish in pursuing education at times.
“However, my family supported me every step of the way and they will now benefit from the experience just as much as I will. Whenever I felt like giving up and walking away, the University staff were supportive and encouraging. I could not have completed my degree without their support.”
Looking back at the last five years, Shumela added: “University has been transformational. I cannot convey the lasting impact my time at Stirling has had on me. From someone with no qualifications whatsoever to having an honours degree: I have a really positive future now.”