Midlothian family is university challenged

Mary Holgate (78), Mhairi Barrett (43), Charlotte Barrett (11) and Zak Barrett (9), who are celebrating success at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, after discovering new routes to higher education
Mary Holgate (78), Mhairi Barrett (43), Charlotte Barrett (11) and Zak Barrett (9), who are celebrating success at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, after discovering new routes to higher education

Three generations of the same family are celebrating success at a local university after discovering new routes to higher education.

The grandmother, daughter and two grandchildren, from Dalkeith and Gorebridge, have become the first people in their family to gain access to university education at the same time, thanks to widening participation initiatives run by Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh.

Racking up 140 years between them, Mary Holgate (78), Mhairi Barrett (43), and Mhairi’s children, Charlotte (11), and Zak (9), are all now QMU students.

Mhairi, who attended Dalkeith High School and has already completed a BSc (Hons) Psychology & Sociology and MSc Gastronomy at QMU, is now undertaking a PhD at the university. Before arriving at QMU, Mhairi spent over 25 years working in the food, drink and catering industry, but had always thought university was out of reach because of her age, background and limited high school qualifications.

She said: “QMU has changed my life. The staff have been very supportive throughout my university career. When I first started Zak was only six months old, which could have made returning to university impossible, but the support I received made it achievable. I’m still here and Zak is nine years old now!”

Inspired by her daughter’s success , Mary found that being a grandmother is no obstacle to securing a place at university. She was accepted on to the BSc (Hons) Psychology and Sociology at QMU in 2014. She is studying for her degree part-time and is due to graduate in 2019. She said: “It’s never too late to go to university and achieve your dream. I’m living proof of that.”

Mary, who worked as a receptionist at Midlothian Council for 13 years, retired in 2012.

Mhairi and Mary originally joined QMU as associate students on the introductory Sociology module. Since 2004, the university has been offering the module to adult learners in various community spaces and places across Midlothian. It was following completion of this widening participation initiative that Mhairi and Mary joined QMU’s in-house programmes.

Charlotte and Zak, who attend Gorebridge Primary School, are now both following in their mother and grandmother’s footsteps by joining the Queen Margaret Children’s University.

Charlotte said: “I made lots of new friends, and we did really fun stuff. When I go to high school this year I will have already made friends from other schools.”

Zak added: “I was so excited to be old enough to join the Queen Margaret Children’s University.”