A formerly homeless man has just been awarded a place to study at Cambridge University — one of the world’s most prestigious universities — at the age of 52. 

Geoff Edwards, who used to sell the Big Issue magazine on the streets of Cambridge, said he is “still getting used to the idea” that he has achieved his dream of studying English literature.

Edwards described it as the “first thing I am proud of in my life.” 

“This is what I have always wanted to do, but no-one in my family had been to university so I didn’t even consider it,” he said.

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“I didn’t think of applying to Cambridge — I didn’t think Cambridge University would take someone like me, but my tutor encouraged me to apply,” he added. “Cambridge is a big step up but I am looking forward to pushing myself. I can’t believe what I’ve achieved.” 

Edwards was awarded the place after gaining distinctions in his Access to Higher Education course at Cambridge Regional College — an access course designed for adults who want to return to education.

But the path to university has been far from an easy journey for him.

After leaving school with two O-levels, in maths and English, Edwards moved from Liverpool to Cambridge to become a field labourer — until the work dried up and he found himself on the streets. 

“I was homeless for a long time after that and I was isolated and getting anxious,” he continued. 

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It was only when he began selling the Big Issue that he got back “a bit of self-respect”, and began to regain hopes for his future. 

“I knew I was in a rut and I decided to do something different with my life. I thought about how to address it and decided education was the way,” he said. 

Edwards visited an open day at Cambridge Regional College to find out how to get the qualifications to achieve his dream of studying at university.

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And, thanks to his excellent results, he can now look forward to heading to Hughes Hall — the oldest of the Cambridge colleges — which specifically takes graduates and mature undergraduates. 

Anthony Freeling, the college president, said that Hughes Hall “is committed to ensuring that the gates of Cambridge University are open to all who have the potential to succeed.” 

There are a range of bursaries available in colleges for students who apply to the university, and a univeristy spokesperson sold Global Citizen: "We believe that finance should never be an obstacle to a student gaining a place at the University of Cambridge." 

Cambridge Regional College tutor Debbie Goodrick added: “I have taught access students from age 18 to age 78, it is never too late to return to education. Geoff has had an incredible journey to where he is now, and I have no doubt that he will flourish at Cambridge.” 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the Global Goals, including goal No.4 for quality education for everyone, everywhere. You can join us by taking action here.


Defeat Poverty

This Former Homeless Man Just Won a Place at Cambridge University

By Imogen Calderwood