Gran who quit job to go to Derby university is loving life - and won't pay off her loan until the age of 112

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'I just love it'

A gran who quit her job to go to university is loving life - and won't pay off her loan until the age of 112.

Alison Bramwell, now 56, started at the University of Derby four years ago.

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She decided she'd had enough of her cleaning business - so went off to study.

Now the gran-of-three and mum-of-two is thriving as a mature student, living in halls with other students.

She said: "I just love it. It's one of the best things I've ever done.

"And I’ve got some really great younger friends. I can't think there are many 56-year-olds living the life that I am."

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Alison was living in Sutton Coldfield eight years ago when she hit the menopause - and decided she wanted a change.

She'd always loved theatre and got a place on an acting course at a conservatoire in Birmingham in 2018.

Teachers then encouraged her to apply for university and she got an offer for a three-year undergraduate degree in theatre arts.

And, when she and the man she'd met in 1998 separated, she enrolled in September 2019.

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She moved away from her daughter Sophie, now 35, son Michael, now 30, and her three grandkids.

Alison said she almost quit on day four but said staff gave her the support and encouragement that helped her stay on.

"It was so hard moving away from my kids and their families," she said.

"I loved being a really active mum - always cooking and being there for them.

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"Even after they left home they'd often come for Sunday dinner with their partners and kids.

"I dreaded telling them but actually they were really encouraging.

"It was such a shock being in an unknown city.

"I felt like I might as well have gone to America, but this experience has taught me to be independent again.

"It took me a year to get use to the emotional upheaval.

"I'll be honest, I utilised student welfare services a lot and they really helped.

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"As well as getting used to being away I was grieving a long-term relationship and everything I'd known for so many years.

"I had my tears, my nights of crying into my pillow, but welfare said my settling in was no different from the younger students.

"I just stuck with it - and I'm so glad I did."

Derby gran Alison Bramwell is loving uni lifeDerby gran Alison Bramwell is loving uni life
Derby gran Alison Bramwell is loving uni life

Alison lived in halls throughout her time at university.

And, after achieving a 2:2, she took a trip to Mexico to work as an environmental volunteer in the summer of 2022.

She then started her master's degree in applied theatre in education in January 2023 and still lives in a uni flat in the centre of Derby.

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Alison said she got used to the others partying while she went to bed - and they got used to her music in the mornings.

Alison funded her studies with student loans and part-time jobs.

In the future she's aiming to be a facilitator in local theatres: teaching drama to mature people.

She said: "I'm not worried about the debt.

"I've worked out I'll be 112 before I finish paying it off. I guess that's just another advantage of being an older student.

"The menopause was a bit of a revelation.

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"Suddenly my cleaning business just didn't feel like enough, I really needed to do something just for myself.

"Since the menopause I just go for it with new experiences.

"Like in Mexico I was offered a trip down the river Hudson - I just said 'yes'.

"It was very scary going off to Mexico but I had the best time."

Alison completed the first year of a degree in environmental sciences at Coventry University when she was 20.

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But she quit because didn't feel it was for her - and also she had her daughter.

But she said going to uni as a mature student should be encouraged as people are actually ready at an older age and get the best out of the experience.

She said: "You’re just so much more focussed and level headed as a mature student.

"You want to do that degree because you have chosen to and you're into your subject, not because you think you should or someone has told you you should.

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"You’re there because you really want to be and you're in a different mindset.

"I've really thrived on the knowledge I've acquired. It's so empowering and I'm sure it's because I'm older.

"Education is so much easier when you've already spent your life working on your emotions, yourself and you have experience of how to manage things. You have so many fewer distractions.

"It's the best time to do it. I have plenty of time left for a career.

"Post-50 I'm better than I've ever been.

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"I wish society would encourage all ages into uni, not just see it an extension of sixth form.

"It can be very negative for young people to invest heavily in a degree and come out not knowing what to do with it.

"You're better off taking a couple of years at least to know what you really want to do.

"Most of the younger students seemed to value having me there - but a few found it awkward.

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"I get that, they were getting used to being away from their parents and then there's this older person there.

"But if more older people were encouraged to go to university it would be easier for everyone."

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