‘Life After Lucy: Anthea Bain’

by Anthea Bain on 27 November 2014


When I graduated from Lucy Cavendish in June 2012 I had wonderful notions of climbing to the higher echelons of academia – an MA first, of course, then a PhD, and afterwards, who knows? My English degree had inspired me – not only the teaching, study and the writing of the essays but also the ambience of the College. I will always believe that there are few other colleges in Cambridge with such a strong commitment to its mature students, their families and the specific requirements they need to complete a lifelong dream. And for me it was a 43-year old dream!
And so I began my two-year post-grad journey. Clutching my transcript in my hot little hand I first applied to Cambridge to do an MPhil in Medieval Literature for 2012-13. No go. I should have known: a 2:1 is just not good enough. So, disappointed and half-heartedly, I looked elsewhere and was offered an unconditional place (such is the power of a Cambridge degree) at UCL to do an MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies for 2013-14. Sadly, I came up against the cost - £8000 for a full-time year. There was no possibility of my being able to afford this and after deferring for a year to work in University Administration to try to save, I had to give in. It was just too expensive, even part-time. I had tried all the funding opportunities available but humanities funding is very difficult now and who is going to fund a 66-year old with no chance of a subsequent career?

Anthea BainsIt was when I was attending a day course – ‘Editing Vernacular Chaucer’ – in the School of Advanced studies in the University of London this summer that I picked up a leaflet for an MA in The History of the Book. I figured this would run parallel – and be complementary with – my gambol through seven centuries at Cambridge and that the BA and the MA would inform each other. And guess what? It was cheaper. Not much, but it was less and I could also pay in quarterly tranches – unlike UCL which required the fees upfront.

So I sat down in class on the first day of the course on Wednesday 1st October 2014. I had made it! It’s part-time so I can work around my study to pay the bills, and everything I had learned at Cambridge helped me when ‘new-girl syndrome’ swept over me. The class is a good mix of young and mature and at only ten students tutor interaction is similar to that of Cambridge and Lucy. It’s a different degree, of course. There’s much more solitary reading, writing and serious research, and I’m investigating national archives for the first time – spot the rookie biting the end of her pencil and not having a clue where to go! But I’m back. With the experience of Cambridge and Lucy behind me I feel I will succeed and I am grateful for everything my three years at Cambridge taught me – and for the confidence it gave me to carry on.

Thank you, Lucy Cavendish.