Family Learning: promoting the benefits of lifelong learning to a wider audience

Birkbeck alumna Yvonne Plowright and current student Liliana Torres discuss their experiences with the Family Learning events attended by the Widening Access team. 

Yvonne Plowright at a Family Learning event

The Widening Access team at Birkbeck collaborate with other London universities (including UCL, King’s and City) to attend parents’ evenings and other family events at these institutions, with the aim of promoting learning which spans the generations.  Through workshops and talks in which current students and alumni also share their experience of studying at Birkbeck, we are able to demonstrate to parents and carers what Birkbeck, and higher education, has to offer.

Often they are in attendance to support their children with making a decision about where to study, so it is a fantastic opportunity to talk with people who may not have considered studying at university.  By providing them with information, advice and guidance, we encourage parents and carers to consider embarking on their own university journey too.

One Birkbeck alumna, Yvonne Plowright, has been a regular ambassador at the family learning events we attend.  Here, she discusses how she got involved and why she enjoys doing these events:

“Among its many attributes, Birkbeck prides itself on being the university “for students who simply refuse to stop learning”.  That rubric always strikes a chord with me, perhaps because I am a mature student who has made a commitment to lifelong learning.  I am passionate about education for all, so when Birkbeck’s Widening Access Team invited me to join them at family learning events, I jumped at the chance.

“I have a BA in Philosophy from Birkbeck and these events are my opportunity to share my story and to say thank you to this magnificent university for changing my life in ways I could never have imagined.  I returned to student life after an absence of over thirty years, when I was busy with a career, working full-time and raising a family.  Once my children had grown up and left home to further their education and pursue their interests, I was able to fulfil the promise I had made to myself to continue with my own studies.

“When I attend the family learning events, I usually give a short talk about my journey to Birkbeck and the absolutely wonderful experience of being a mature university student – how this has grown my sense of self-worth, my confidence and how it has made me a much happier, more productive member of society.  The highlight of each event for me, however, is always the time I then have to meet and interact with adults who may have come to the event in support of their children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, without realising that a big part of our presentation is aimed at them.   Much to their surprise, our adult guests discover that Birkbeck wants to engage with them too.  It is a joy to be told by guests that they feel really inspired and are now thinking in terms of taking that first step to either return to university or go to university for the first time.  It’s the feeling of planting seeds which will one day bear fruit that I find so rewarding about these tremendously worthwhile events.”

Liliana Torres applied to study the Foundation Degree in Management and Accounting after meeting Birkbeck representatives at an event in 2017.  She has shared her experience of being a student at Birkbeck so far:

“I first heard about Birkbeck at a Family Day event last year at King’s College in Strand. I heard two accounts from Birkbeck graduates and felt inspired. I decided to do a Foundation Degree in Management and Accounting as I am running a small business and wanted to further develop my professional skills. I decided to do the four years part-time as I have children and other commitments. I believe I have chosen the right university for me as there is a lot of support and my tutors are always happy to give me feedback and answers any queries I have. I attend the study skills workshops which offer a lot of help, this has really supported me in me learning even receiving a merit on my first essay was a big achievement for me. Most importantly, I have enjoyed my experience at Birkbeck and have recommended it to family and friends.”

For further information about our family learning activities and the organisations we work with, please visit http://www.bbk.ac.uk/about-us/outreach/family-learning

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