New lease of life pays dividends for First-Class graduate Gareth

New lease of life pays dividends for First-Class graduate Gareth Banner Image

Blackburn dad-of-two overcomes the odds and takes the chance of a lifetime

A dad-of-two who was given a new lease of life after receiving medical care for a chronic condition has graduated with a First-Class Honours degree from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Gareth West, who was diagnosed with the long-term auto immune condition psoriatic arthritis while he was working full-time, took to the stage of UCLan’s transformed Sir Tom Finney Sports Hall to collect his web design and development degree.

The 38-year-old, who has previously worked in marketing and graphic design roles, said: “When I was working at Vital Pet Products I became aware of increasing pain in my feet. After thorough investigations, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and given medication which, unfortunately, was of little benefit initially. I was later offered an alternative treatment in the form of injections and these were life changing. Almost immediately my pain levels reduced, and I was able to carry out simple physical tasks again.

I was able to engage in experimentation with my own ideas and take concepts from inception, through design and to production. It’s given me a huge thirst to continue to learn and develop my own projects.

“It was this health problem which prompted me to assess my life path and I decided to take the chance to study again full-time in the rapidly developing field of web design and development. It has certainly been worth the sacrifices me and my family have made and I’m looking to the future with excitement now.”

Gareth, who originally hails from Skipton but now lives in Blackburn with his long-term partner Dionne, and two young sons Jasper, nine, and Dexter, four, said: “I have always been technologically minded. My experience was all within the traditional field of print and I felt that this area was in decline. I wanted to look to the future, yet still capitalise on the skills I had gained. The degree in web design and development was a perfect fit for me.” 

He spent the first two years of his degree studying at UCLan’s Burnley Campus. His final year was on campus at Preston and it was during this year that his passion to continue his studies was really ignited.

He explained: “It was during my third year that my eyes were opened to things I never knew existed within the field of web design. I was able to engage in experimentation with my own ideas and take concepts from inception, through design and to production. It’s given me a huge thirst to continue to learn and develop my own projects.”

Following graduation, Gareth’s original plan was to pursue a Master’s degree in the field, however, with some encouragement from his tutor Dr Mark Lochrie, he applied for a PhD. After a proposal submission and interview he learned he had been successful and will start a three-year programme in September 2019.

Sheryl Chadwick | 22 July 2019