Croydon resident Chloe Livingston yesterday graduated with a first-class law degree from Birkbeck, University of London, having spent the past three years balancing her studying with a full-time job and the care of her son, Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was just six years old when his mum began her degree course to fulfil her lifetime ambition, and the youngster was there at Senate House in central London yesterday to see his mother receive her diploma from Professor David Latchman, the Master of Birkbeck, and Dame Joan Bakewell.
Chloe Livingston, 29, knew that enrolling for a degree would be a challenge, but nothing could have prepared her for the difficulties she would face, including narrowly escaping death in a head-on collision.
Livingston had always dreamed of being a lawyer or a doctor, but on leaving school she fell into a career in banking. She never lost her desire to study, but was reluctant to return to life as a cash-strapped student.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to subject my son to that lifestyle,” she says. That’s when a friend suggested Birkbeck – the evening study model meant that Chloe wouldn’t have to give up her job while getting the education she’d always wanted.
Through it all, Nehemiah was really supportive. “Some days I would be glued to the dining room table working and he’d come in and say ‘are you ok mummy? Do you need anything?’” she says.
As well as juggling parental responsibilities, Livingston works full-time as a relationships manager for a bank. “I thought that because lots of Birkbeck students work during the day, the lecturers might go easy on us. But that definitely wasn’t the case!”
Livingston’s employers were supportive, while friends and family helped out with childcare so she could attend her classes.
Just as she was hitting her stride though, a terrible accident almost changed everything. A near fatal head-on collision towards the end of second year threatened to stop Livingston’s progress in its tracks.
“Birkbeck were really supportive and gave me the adjustments I needed to complete my assignments. Second year nearly broke me, but I had too much to lose not to pull through.”
Graduating with a first-class University of London degree, Livingston is proud to be a role model for her son. “At first, I think he thought that university looked too much like hard work! But when we were walking home from school the other day he turned to me and said ‘I’m so proud of you mum, you’re going to be amazing’.”
Livingston feels returning to study as a mature student was the right decision. “If I’d gone to university at 18, I don’t know if I would have completed my course, or got a first.
“Now I’m wondering what to do with my evenings.”
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