Chance meeting inspires first class degree

26 July 2016

Volunteering opportunity with a deaf boy led to Lisa Irvine going back into education

A Manchester student who left school with no qualifications is now graduating from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) with first class honours, after a chance meeting with a deaf little boy inspired her to change her life.

Lisa Irvine, 32, was volunteering with charity Riding for the Disabled when she became frustrated with herself for being unable to communicate with one of the children, who was deaf.

Although she had always struggled with education in the past, it was this encounter which inspired Lisa to apply for the BA (Hons) British Sign Language and Deaf Studies at UCLan.

Three years on she will not only graduate with the highest degree classification, but has been awarded the School Student Achievement Award by the School of Journalism, Language and Communication.

During a summer research internship at UCLan, Lisa also worked with a visiting professor from John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland, who has since invited her to write a piece of work to be published in a Polish academic journal.

Lisa, who lives in Urmston, said: “Once I’d made the decision to go back into education UCLan was the perfect choice. It has a fantastic reputation, the course is well known and well thought of and the lecturers are very highly regarded within their field. I’ve had an amazing time here with some amazing people, lecturers and friends.

“I’m feeling so many emotions about graduating. I’m excited, overwhelmed, nervous and relieved, all at the same time. I left school without any GCSEs and I never thought I would be here. I just keep asking myself how it can be happening to me.”

For Lisa’s study support tutor, Roger Eckton, the answer is clear. He was impressed with the way Lisa fought her way back into Higher Education and says she has grown considerably in confidence since their first meeting. 

"I’m feeling so many emotions about graduating. I’m excited, overwhelmed, nervous and relieved, all at the same time."

Lisa also threw herself into the University experience, travelling to China, Prague and Italy to expand her study.

“I’ve had so many fantastic experiences here at UCLan and it’s great that the course isn’t just classroom based,” Lisa added. “I was given the opportunity to visit Beijing and Zhengzhou in China, which was amazing. I spent time in a deaf school, two universities and a famous deaf art gallery, and I also got to meet a number of highly respected academics, students training to become sign language interpreters, deaf university students and members of the deaf community. I also had the opportunity to do some sightseeing including the Great Wall of China.”

However, Lisa’s journey wasn’t always easy and she suffered health problems in her final year.

“My health problems made my final year more challenging, but I can’t fault the fantastic support I received from UCLan,” Lisa said.

Once she graduates, Lisa hopes to secure a job in education and is considering furthering her own education once she’s gained more practical experience in her field.

She is one of nearly 4,000 students who graduated in front of family and friends at Preston’s Guild Hall.