Helping people rediscover their potential and achieve their dreams
"Until now I never quite believed in myself, but this made me realise it is never too late to study and find your confidence."
These are the inspirational words of Ethel Maqeda, who fled from her home in Zimbabwe in 2005, when she came to Sheffield as a refugee. Finding herself without anywhere to live or a job, studying for a degree was something she never thought would be possible.
"Arriving in the UK was an incredible shock, I found myself with such a completely different life – I didn't have anything," she said.
"My main priority was just to get a job. I could write good English but I lacked confidence in speaking the language."
Ethel is one of thousands of people who have rediscovered their potential and achieved their academic dreams thanks to the Institute for Lifelong Learning (TILL) at the University of Sheffield – the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2011.
TILL gives people who previously ruled out higher education the chance to study alongside their existing work commitments, family and other responsibilities. Evening classes, weekend sessions, independent and online modules and flexible programmes give people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to allow their abilities to flourish.
Ethel, who achieved a Creative Writing Certificate through TILL went straight on to study a Creative Writing Masters Degree at the University's School of English.
"Coming to TILL boosted my confidence in the sense that there were a lot of different people doing the course for different reasons and there wasn't any pressure," she said.
"The atmosphere was very relaxed and it gave me the confidence to just enjoy my studies. The other students were very supportive and very understanding."
TILL offers a host of qualifications in a range of subjects from a Certificate in Archaeology or Modern Languages to a BA Honours Degree in Social and Political Studies or IT.
Janet Yates, 51, from Sheffield obtained a first-class honours degree on the part-time English Studies and Performing Arts course. Janet enjoyed schooling but always considered herself 'unsuitable' for higher education.
However, after raising her children and becoming successful in her career, Janet seized the opportunity to get a degree – something which, as a teenager, she previously dismissed. Janet was later forced to move onto a part-time course when her daughter was taken ill.
"After the first semester I came close to quitting my studies as a result of my daughter being taken ill. Fortunately, the University's TILL department offered a part-time course similar to the one I was already studying so I was able to keep the momentum going," she said.
"TILL were so understanding about my situation and it's great that they appreciate the pressures mature students have to deal with.
"It felt wonderful to graduate, everyone was so proud and I was exceptionally proud of myself. I was the first person in my family to go to university and I am so glad I proved this was something I was capable of."
Now, for the first time, part-time students are eligible for the same Government support for tuition fees as their full-time counterparts- making part-time study more appealing and accessible than many people believe.
This means that you may borrow the entire cost of tuition fees and you do not have to pay anything up-front providing you are studying 30 or more credits per year and taking a programme which is at a higher level than any qualifications you already hold.
To find out more about TILL visit the next open day event on Tuesday 26 June, between 12noon and 7pm. Between 12pm and 3pm TILL will host interactive taster sessions to give anyone interested in furthering their education a chance to experience what is on offer.
Between 3pm and 7pm visitors can talk individually to TILL course leaders about the subject you are interested in.
Discover more about the flexibility of studying through TILL and the financial support available for adult learners.
For more information visit www.sheffield.ac.uk