Homeless Big Issue seller wins place at Cambridge University

'It is the first thing I am proud of in my life,' says Geoff Edwards

May Bulman
Thursday 09 November 2017 15:19
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Mr Edwards, who spent years living on the streets, said going to Cambridge to study something he loved was “a dream” of his
Mr Edwards, who spent years living on the streets, said going to Cambridge to study something he loved was “a dream” of his

A former Big Issue seller who spent years living on the streets, has won a place to study English Literature at Cambridge University.

Geoff Edwards, who got a U in his English Literature O-level, started his course at the renowned institution after completing an access course at the prestigious institution.

”I didn't think of applying to Cambridge. I didn't think Cambridge University would take someone like me," the 52-year-old told the Cambridge News. "But my tutor encouraged me to apply. It is the first thing I am proud of in my life.”

The 52-year-old said he enjoyed reading from a young age and that there were always books in his childhood home in Liverpool, where his father worked as a postman and his mother held down an office job.

Mr Edwards said he didn’t enjoy school, and left with O-levels in mathematics and English language but got a U, or “unclassified”, in English literature.

After leaving school, he left Liverpool to work as a field labourer in Kent, Gloucestershire and Scotland. He said he always had a book on the go.

After arriving in Cambridge, the work dried up and Mr Edwards began living in squats when possible and on the streets when not, picking up books from libraries and charity shops, reading as a way to “escape”.

With help from homeless charities he began to sell the Big Issue, saving up £20 to go to London on Mondays to pick up the magazines, which he then sold on the streets of the city for the rest of the week.

He said selling it helped him gain back some self-respect and prompted him to realise that he needed to do something different with his life.

Mr Edwards went to an open day at Cambridge Regional College, where he arranged to do a gateway course, and then an access course, which would enable him to go onto do a BA in English Literature.

The 52-year-old gained distinctions for every subject on the access course and his tutor recommended he try for Cambridge, where he took up his place last month.

Mr Edwards said attending the university to study something he loved was “a dream” of his, adding that he was still getting used to the idea that it was actually happening.

“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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