77-year-old loving life at uni after being told it wasn't for girls

A woman who was told that university wasn't for girls has gone back to learning at the age of 77 after being inspired by her late daughter.

Janet MacDougall, who was told that studying was not for girls
Janet MacDougall, who was told that studying was not for girls

Despite leaving school with the right qualifications, Janet MacDougall from Tettenhall was told by her parents to forget education and focus on getting married.

But when her daughter - who had always been creative - died of cancer, Ms MacDougall was inspired to fulfil her life-long dream of studying after 60 years of struggling to get where she wanted to be.

The art student said: "I really wanted to be part of the student art community. I was a creative girl but going to university wasn’t an option back then – my parents told me that girls only get married and that studying for a creative degree wouldn’t get me a job.

“I lived my life, had children, got married, struggled with some of my relationships, bought and renovated a house at a time when it was unheard of for women to own a property.

"But it wasn’t until my youngest daughter died of throat cancer at the age of 45, that I started to think about doing something creative - she was such a creative girl, very arty and musical.

"And that inspired me to pick up with my learning again. Yes, it was something to take my mind off the grief, but also, there was something in me that had always wanted to be creative.”

Ms MacDougall is now in her third year at the University of Wolverhampton, studying for a degree in textiles and surface pattern after four years of art classes which were a "lifesaver" for her.

Speaking about the course, the 77-year-old said: "I love the tutors at the university and creating the work. It’s great for people who might be lonely or who are looking to do something for themselves after years of looking after other people.”

She secured a student loan to pay for the course, and is getting support with the digital aspect of the course, which she found herself daunted by.

Sharon Watts, course leader at the university, said: “The university is a very strong ambassador for lifelong learning and I think that Jan’s story epitomises this in every way.

“Jan’s story is exceptional because her journey hasn’t been an easy one, but I think she’s really demonstrated that it’s never too late to realise your dreams and it’s never too late to learn.”

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