Going to university as a thirty something

I haven't blogged loads and loads about my decision to go to university to do a BA (Hons) Photography degree at the age of thirty seven because well frankly it was only last Sunday night (the day before starting my second year) that it has actually begun to feel real! I know, I know I'm about to go in to the second year and it's only finally starting to feel like a reality although I expect I will still keep pinching myself occasionally and get ridiculously overwhelmed in the lecture theatre because I just can't believe I'm *actually* there. I'm not even joking when I say I have actually had tears trickle down my face as I've been sat in total awe at the fact that these people actually let me in! 
I only told a handful of people that I was going to apply, by today's standards I think I'm quite private for a blogger, my blog was always more about things I love and wanted to waffle on about and not  what flavour squash I'm drinking or a document of every second of my day. But of course five years ago when I started writing this blog there wasn't Instagram so it was a very different time!

Uni was so far off my radar of things I thought I could aspire to. I left school with only GSCEs , I stayed at sixth form for about a couple of weeks but stuff at home and school meant I didn't feel settled and in hindsight I just felt a bit lost and lacking direction and was sure I wasn't going to be 'good enough' to be there. I don't think that's at all unique to me but at that age (especially) you can tend to feel slightly alone with it all.
one of the images from my interview portfolio from a portrait session with artist Simon Pritchard
I owe so much to the adult education system, I can hand on heart say that if it wasn't for the fact I was able to do courses of an evening or a morning one day a week, there is absolutely no way I would even have considered going to university never mind got in to one.
It was a City & Guilds in photography course which helped me discover self portraiture which has gone on to develop in to a long term (probably life time)  project
My first course was a City & Guilds in photography in my early twenties which actually took place at my old high school (that was weird I can tell you) I can clearly remember then that the variety of courses on offer was huge and we're talking being able to go and do GCSEs in all sorts of subjects not just English and Maths like it is today and A Levels, again in a wide choice of subjects. Some people were doing courses as a step to another part of education and others just because they were simply interested. I was the latter. I'd never thought I'd be a full time student, ever, never mind 12 or so years on from then.

The cuts to adult education constantly leave me dismayed. Before I started uni in 2014 I spent another two years doing different City & Guilds Photography courses - which massively helped me create a portfolio for my interview as well as teaching me so many skills. Just one morning a week and quite a bit of course work in my own time but it was a fairly manageable way to learn and still work. By the time I left, the course had dramatically increased in price to be in excess of £1000 - people are being priced out of adult education and it's not just higher education like degrees and masters that's an issue.

This makes me so sad and angry too. Yes you can get a student loan for further education but then you're restricted on what other courses you can and can't do next time if you already have that loan unless you can pay the full fee.
Flower lady in Birmingham market which formed part of my City & Guilds coursework 
So there are courses which would probably be full that can't run because there aren't enough numbers. There are people who want to learn in a classroom environment that just won't get that opportunity. I feel incredibly lucky to have been in the adult education system when I was, but it shouldn't be down to luck.

But here I am, two days in to my second year which I'm really excited about. Considering I thought my interview went pretty terrible (lovely tutor I just thought I was going to get told to go away for a year, work some more on my portfolio and then come back again) but no, they bloody only went and gave me an unconditional offer. That was a tough secret to keep I can tell you!

But why keep it secret? Basically I was convinced they'd made a mistake and I would turn up on day one and they'd say 'ooops! wrong person!' and even over the first few days I was sure they were going to pull me aside and explain they'd made a mistake. But they kept letting me back in and I really loved my first year.

I used images from this editorial shoot for Wake Up Little Susie as part of my course work for year one at uni
A photo posted by Kerry (@missyvintage) on There were highs and lows, juggling time was and I expect always will be an issue in some shape of from, I lost some work at a really bad time (just before I was due to hand it in! I cried. A lot but I learned a lot from that to) but all was okay and I flew through the pass mark for year one but all was okay and I flew through the pass mark for year one and I feel really ready for year two although I'm still all kinds of nervous about juggling life with uni and will my work be okay etc etc
One of my final pieces for the first year at uni which was exhibited as part of my final project (thanks if you came along by the way!)  Model: Nakita Harden
I've also been wanting to start finding my visual voice and that's not necessarily a vintage one. I didn't want to get pigeon holed as someone who is a 'vintage' photographer and there's nothing wrong with having that specialism but I knew it wasn't me. Will it be at some point? I don't know.

There's an obvious influence in some of my work, I love fashion photography of the seventies, I have and probably always will love the Warhol silk screen prints but so do a million other artists. I'm inspired by history and what's gone before and that feeds in to my work but for me, my photography needed a separate identity from Missy Vintage which is why I set up a different instagram account for that side of my life.

Will there be more highs and lows during year two? Absolutely, uni (despite the numerous jokes I've had about sitting round in PJs watching daytime TV drinking cider) is really hard work (and anyone who follows me on instagram will know I'm nearly always a vino girl anyway and who DOESN'T like drinking wine whilst in night attire?!)

If you do want to see more of my photography work then you can visit my online portfolio or come and say hello on instagram . Sorry this post ended up being so long guys, I didn't realise I'd have a rant mid way, but I'm so passionate about our adult education system, and feel it's an important and very precious resource.

If you're wondering what courses are happening near you by the way, then google is your friend so go have a search!



  1. Firstly, well done for getting to university. Until last week I worked in an FE college and part of the reason I left were the cuts, which impacted hugely on the direction in which adult education is heading.

    Like you I have gone to university at the grand old age of 38! I completed an access course last year and am midway through my first week of a nursing degree. Studying anything is more difficult when one is older as there are Real Grown Up things to juggle which 18 year old students are lucky enough not to have to worry about!

    Many many good wishes with the rest of your studies. You will get there :-)

    1. Thanks Pixieanna

      Good luck on your course too! Completely agree about having a different juggling list to manage. I certainly didn't a few months off over the summer to travel, but I wish the lucky young ones that did all the best of course!

      Sadly I just don't see any hope of change or ant attempts to reverse the situation adult education. There seems little recognition by the people who make the decisions that there is so much value in allowing people to learn. It's a very worrying situation.

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  3. Good luck for this year Kerry, cool photos! Pete


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