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Marion achieves her degree -at 83!

PUBLISHED: 10:55 23 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:30 12 July 2010

Marion Courtney

Marion Courtney

She was forced to leave school at the age of 14 with no qualifications after her father lost his job.

But Marion Courtney was determined to make the best of things and trained as a nurse during the second world war - a vocation she had always wanted to follow.

She was forced to leave school at the age of 14 with no qualifications after her father lost his job.

But Marion Courtney was determined to make the best of things and trained as a nurse during the second world war - a vocation she had always wanted to follow.

But after retiring the determined great-grandmother decided to get the qualifications she had missed out on in her youth and at the age of 83 she has finally achieved her Open University (OU) degree after seven years of study.

Yesterday, she said that she had completed her BA (Hons) in Humanities as a tribute to her daughter who died of cancer six years ago. Before her death Susan Davies had made her mother promise she would see her studies through and achieve her goal.

Mrs Courtney, of Harleston, said: “I completed it for my daughter because I promised I would.

“People said to me 'Why do you want to get it? You can't use it. You are not going to work'. But I have learned a tremendous amount and it has been thoroughly enjoyable. It just shows that anyone can do it whatever their age. If I can do it anyone can.”

Mrs Courtney chose a Humanities degree because it allowed her to merge two subjects she is particularly interested in, history and religion.

She said: “I had some wonderful tutors and learned how to use a computer to print my essays and went on the internet.

“The hardest part was the essays which were 3,000 words long. I said to one tutor 'I have dealt with facts all my life. Give me symptoms and I will give you a diagnosis and a prognosis. That would take up to half a side of A4 at most.'”

It was a change in family circumstances that meant Mrs Courtney had to leave school at a young age without passing any exams.

She said: “My father was what they termed a white collar worker. If your parents were white collar workers you couldn't go to a state school, you had to go to a private school.

“In 1938 the firm my father had worked for all his life went bust thanks to mass production. The firm made beautiful bodies for Rolls Royce cars. They were all handmade, there was no machinery. Because my father was out of work I got a job and went and told the headmaster that I would be leaving school at Easter.

“After four years in the Civil Service, I was able to do the only thing I had ever wanted to do, which was nursing. I couldn't have done nursing if it hadn't been for the war. They took me without the matriculation because they were so short of nurses.”

Mrs Courtney trained at Hammersmith Hospital in London, and after moving to East Anglia she spent 27 years working at Lowestoft Hospital.

Yesterday, she thanked her family, friends and the clergy and congregation at her local church, St John's in Harleston, for all their support.

Mrs Courtney will be among hundreds of people from across the East of England attending two graduation ceremonies for Britain's largest university at Ely Cathedral on Saturday, May 31.

The event will be the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to fulfil graduates' ambitions of gaining a qualification in their chosen field including science, business, the humanities, including the arts, technology and education.

Many of the students who have gained degrees have overcome serious obstacles such as ill health, disability or juggling a busy family life to complete their studies successfully.

Helen Lloyd Wildman, regional director of the OU in the East of England, said: “The East of England is one of the most dynamic in the UK with low rates of unemployment and one of the largest concentrations of new and growing businesses.

“This energy is reflected in the efforts of our students who each year continue in their thousands to achieve their ambitions, further their careers and enhance their lives regardless of their circumstances or backgrounds.”

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