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Ruth Clinton

After more than 20 years as a support worker for people with learning disabilities, Ruth Clinton felt her career needed a boost. Though she loved her work with a NHS psychology service it was time to move up the promotional ladder.

By chance, a training manager at work was helping to put together a foundation degree at the University of Worcester. “He explained that it was aimed at helping people move up the salary structure and NHS career banding,” she says.

Ruth, who left college at 18 with a BTEC national diploma in social care, enrolled on a two year foundation degree in learning disability at the age of 36. She went on to study for another year and graduated with an upper second Honours BA degree in Social Welfare (Learning Disability).

Now she has what she describes as her “dream job” working for Changing Our Lives, a self-advocacy charity helping people with learning difficulties to speak up about their lives and the services they receive.

“This job had a degree as an essential requirement. My work involves completing an oral history project about the lives of people with learning disabilities and it involves a lot of research. I don’t think I could have tackled it without the knowledge I gained on my course,” she says.

The three years were a challenging time for Ruth, who worked full time throughout while taking care of her two school-aged children. The chance to put into practice what she was studying was a bonus, however, and her employers were supportive, giving her a day off a week to attend lectures for the first two years and a day and a half for the third.

“The foundation degree was heavily aimed at putting theory into practice so it really suited me. The third year was harder and a real step up, it really tested me and pushed me on,” she says.