Oxford and Cambridge have come under increasing fire in recent weeks for ‘elitist’ admissions policies, with MP David Lammy’s freedom of information requests showing a disproportionate number of places went to wealthy students from London and the South-East. However, one story that seems to be an exception to this narrative is that of Geoff Edwards, 52, who spent years selling the Big Issue on the streets of Cambridge before taking up his place to study English Literature at Hughes Hall this year.
Edwards grew up in Liverpool, and after leaving school with two O-levels, worked in farms around the country before beginning to sell copies of the Big Issue in Cambridge. The Guardian detailed how his life-long passion for reading helped him cope with years of "unemployment, depression and homelessness.” He found books where he could – “everything from Jack Kerouac to William Burroughs and John Steinbeck."
He spent time living in squats in Cambridge, before eventually being housed – although he then found it isolating, and decided to try to re-enter education. Edwards began studying at Cambridge Regional College, doing a gateway course before an access course, and performing so well that he decided to apply to Cambridge.
When commenting to the Guardian, he spoke about his first term of English, which tends to focus on medieval literature, adding:
“Chaucer’s losing its appeal a bit,” he said. “I’m looking forward to things becoming a bit more modern.
"The essay writing is a big step up from the access course. I knew that when I started. It’s pretty intense. It’s like a 40-hour week of reading and writing. It does feel a bit weird. It’s still like … Cambridge! They are trying to encourage people from more different backgrounds to study at Cambridge, and good on them.”