Meet the cutest family in Edinburgh who all go to uni together

They’re all in the same year


Meet Derek, one of the most recognisable and popular mature students around campus. After speaking to Derek about his experiences at Edinburgh in a little more detail, it so happens that not only does Derek study here, but is also doing a degree alongside his wife, Fi.

It also so happens that it is not only Derek and his wife who study here at the University, but their son, Connal, is doing the same course as his mum.

They literally are a family doing uni together, and to top it all off they live with Derek’s parents in the Edinburgh as well. Isn’t that just adorable?

Connal has epilepsy so when he joined Edinburgh, his mum came with him to lectures in case he had a seizure. She loved his archaeology course so much that she decided to enrol herself. Not wanting to miss out on all the fun, Derek decided to sign up for some courses that had always interesting meaning that the family of three all go to university together.

Is this your first time at University?

Derek: We’ve both been to University before, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called the University of Edinburgh. It’s Fi’s second time, and my third!

Fi: The first time round we made a terrible mistake. Derek and I fell in love, which in our case was suicidal in terms of work.

Derek: I’d recommend it highly, but it’s hard not to spend all of your time with the love of your life, instead of your lecturers.


How did you all end up going to University at the same time once again?

Connal: Well, basically I was at Edinburgh College and I got good enough grades so thought, well why not try out a degree.

Fi: I was already Connal’s carer, as Connal has epilepsy, so I was to go along with him just to be there in case he had a seizure, so I could be there. I ended up finding the course really interesting. So I thought, well I’m already here as his carer, I may as well get something out of it too.

Derek: For me, I was nearing the end of a contract with my job in IT, so the bottom line was me saying ‘Well, I’m not letting them have all the fun’, so applied to do some Psychology courses because I had an interest in epilepsy, thanks to Connal, and then a few other courses and here we are!

How’s it been going so far for you then?

Fi: It has all worked out really well! We threw ourselves into Freshers’ Week and thought we’d act like REAL students.

What did you get up to in Freshers’ Week?

Derek: Oh god! We Ceilidh’d, which was entertaining actually because by halfway through people were looking at us going ‘Ok…they seem to know what they’re doing?’

Connal: It’s quite funny, because these two can do the Ceilidh, but I can’t because when we lived in Malaysia I dislocated my shoulder over 20 times because of seizures…

Fi: In Freshers’ week, we had the chance to go to these events that were purely for ‘mature students’, coffee meet-ups and things like that, and we didn’t go to them because that is almost in a sense putting us into that marginal box and do things that normal students were doing!

Have you got anything planned for Halloween?

Derek: Well there’s the Halloween event at Teviot, we love the events they put on.

Fi: If you don’t go to these social things, then you’re going have a nervous break down. You need that release because you work exceptionally hard, they really are there to help you!

So you don’t feel like ‘mature students’ as such?

Derek: I mean, the ‘mature student’ thing is entertaining, I probably should have say “by the way, I’m not the tutor, 5 minutes into the tutorial” because I do get that feel of “shit, everyone’s looking at me” and I have thought that from the start of first year to be honest. I’ve been mistaken for a tutor or a lecturer so much that if I had a quid for every time it had happened, I could pay my fees.

They love the EUSA events

Have the uni helped you out as a family in any way?

Fi: The University has been terrific, they provided us with a little room in an office, because he was going through a bad stage with seizures, so when he had one we had somewhere to put him and when he woke up he could go straight back to class.

Because I was a teacher and had home-schooled him, they thought I was in a better position than anybody else to mentor him. And the thing is, epilepsy is not very institutionalised, it is a very personal illness, so they really took that on board.

Connal: And not to mention, I am not sure I’d actually want someone who I didn’t know to have to watch me go through a seizure.

Fi: But we do get used to it, like we will put a blanket on him and let him rest on the sofa and just get back to the party because you really do have to take it in your stride, and if you’re letting yourself get upset about it then you’re not going to have a life. We do all the things that you’d usually do.

Fi: Generally speaking, we knew that the University would be superb at giving us support and we wouldn’t have been able to do this other wise without all the help they’ve provided, for example letting Connal sit his exams at home.

How do you find the work?

Fi: We work like demons. 9-5 on weekdays, and 9-12 on weekends and we just work solidly. All my essays for the whole of this semester are going to be done by the end of Week 7, which will give me four weeks with nothing to do but revise! You have to be organised. But when we are not working, we play. We do anything we can to get out the house and do stuff. We work really hard, but then when we get holiday we try and get out of Edinburgh for as long as we can.

Connal: Work hard, play hard.

Fi: The two people who came top of the year were actually mature students and I won the prize for top of the year! The difference between being a young student and a mature student isn’t that you’re more clever, it is that you’re organised. I think it’s one of the benefits of being older, you get tired.

Father and son

Do you have any advice for younger students?

Derek: Well, I think one thing I have found as a mature student is that I ask far more questions and am perhaps less worried about what is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ question, because you think maybe you don’t sound intelligent when asking questions, but it’s so important to ask questions…

Fi: You just have to realise that they are on your side.

So this has been a positive experience for you so far?

Fi: From what he (Derek) was when he was working in IT, and what he is now, it is like a completely different face. It is like getting the boyfriend I had in University back. When he worked in IT, he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.  And now, he is full of life and he wants to go out and try new things and see the world, and that is all because of being back in University.

Derek: When I was working in IT, that photograph (seen below) wouldn’t have happened.

Fi: No, he never smiled. And now we have smiles!

Connal: University has changed me a lot, I used to just wake up around 11am, have an early lunch and from 12-9 I would be on the computer playing games. But mum came to me and said ‘lets go to University, do a course it will be fun!’

Fi: I think, if you embrace University with the right attitude then it can be life-changing. It can be a real burden if you let deadlines get you down, but it can also be something absolutely amazing, and if you think that you’re going to spend the next 20 years of your life working in industry somewhere, you should be embracing every single minute of it, because it comes along USUALLY once, and you should really enjoy it, because the working world is an entirely different place, and not anywhere near as much fun.