A former Big Issue seller who was homeless for ten years is now studying for a degree at the world renowned Cambridge University in the city where he once slept rough.
Geoff Edwards, 52, enrolled on an English Literature course last month, joining Hughes Hall, – the oldest Cambridge college for mature undergraduates.
He was awarded a place after gaining distinctions in his Access to Higher Education course at Cambridge Regional College last year.
Geoff said: “When I first got the news, I was over the moon, it was absolutely brilliant and I knew that I was doing the right thing with my life.
“I started my course in October and am halfway through my first term, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work on my course and it’s a big adjustment.
“Things like Medieval Literature are like another language, there’s a lot to learn.
“There are quite a few societies and groups that you can join, but I’m finding the workload quite overwhelming at the moment.
“When I can, in the next term or year, I want to join the choir because that looks like a really nice thing to do.”
Geoff spent years living in squats across northern England, selling the Big Issue for small change.
He said: “I come from a working class back-ground where nobody went to university, they didn’t even stay on at secondary school.
“I know that with the fees being nine grand a year, I would have saved so much if I went to university back in the 80’s when it was free- but I wasn’t ready then.
“I didn’t think of applying to Cambridge – but my tutor encouraged me to apply and since then I’ve been given a five thousand pound bursary which has been really helpful.”
Geoff came to Cambridge from Liverpool to do field work, but found little in the job market and had trouble getting a job without a permanent address.
He said: “It’s a cycle, I was depressed because I didn’t have a job, but I couldn’t get one easily because of not having an address.
“I started getting counselling because of my depression and I realised education was something I wanted to do so I went to an open day at Cambridge Regional College.
“It did me so much good. There was always someone there to talk to and the college was very welcoming.
“I was worried about my age, but studying makes you feel young and I have enjoyed mixing with young people.”
Geoff’s achievements have been recognised by the Cambridge Access Validating Agency, which has awarded him an Outstanding Academic Achievement award, that he will be presented with at a special ceremony next month.
Geoff, who now lives on his own in Cambridge away from the faculty said: “Right now, I’m not sure of plans and I’m just taking it all each day as it comes, focusing on my education right now.”