Brickie sold family house to broaden his prospects

George Waugh found a new direction through returning to full-time education, but it cost him his home.

He was in his early 30s, running a building firm, and owned an Pounds 80,000 detached bungalow in a leafy suburb of Westbury, Wiltshire, when he took a brave step. He gave it all up to go to university, even selling his home to cut costs and help pay his way.

Today he says it was all worth it. Last term he graduated from the University of the West of England with a BSc in real estate valuation and management. "I must be the best-educated brickie in Westbury," he says.

George had left school at 16 with no qualifications. But later in life, he began to regret his lack of education. In the summer he took on university students as labourers.

"Suddenly the conversation extended right beyond beer and skittles. I think that sort of thing influenced me tremendously. It gave me the confidence to feel that I was capable of going back into education."

The change was also precipitated by the effects of the recession on the building trade. "Things were getting on top of me a little too much. There wasn't as much work on the ground as I might have liked .

"I think I was unhappy with my lot and I didn't seem to be going anywhere. I didn't like the idea of me putting ridge tiles on in the pouring rain in 20 years time."

He consulted the careers advisory service, and signed on at his local FE college to study maths and English language GCSE in the evenings. He went on to do a full-time access course giving him the equivalent of A-levels.

Not everyone was understanding. "You do tend to feel yourself becoming a bit isolated from people - people you would have had a conversation with about what you were doing that day.

"You find people can identify with that - but to try and explain that you have been studying tectonic plate movement or Siegfried Sassoon. People switch off - they don't want to know."

His university fees were paid by the local authority and he was eligible for a basic grant.

But he knew he could no longer afford a mortgage so he sold the bungalow.

He also sold his Leyland pickup truck and bought a much cheaper 2CV. "I thought that was what students drove," he says. He even grew his hair long.

Now he is 37 and a graduate. He and his partner Liza have a baby, Yasmin, and he's looking to go into a career in estate management.

"I feel it's been a real milestone in my life. I really felt like I have achieved something and I feel really good about myself.

"Even if for whatever reason my qualification isn't used and I don't go into the property profession, it means that my children are going to have the benefit of me undertaking a degree at this age.

"I will be able to influence them if they wish to go into further or higher education. I wouldn't feel intimidated by the education system ."

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