Is this the hardest working second year at UCL?
Read Thines Ganeshamoorthy’s incredible story
Happy you managed to make your 9am? Sick of slaving over your dissertation into the small hours? Juggling two jobs to pay your way?
Politics and Eastern European Studies second year Thines Ganeshamoorthy gets through more than that every day, without a word of complaint.
Born with osteogenesis imperfecta – a rare bone disorder – he spent most of his early childhood in hospital and only started primary education at the age of nine.
Now the 21-year-old lectures at three universities, works for the Royal College of Pediatrics, is president of two UCL societies, advocates for people with disabilities and even advises the government.
Thines journey to UCL wasn’t an easy one – his friends crowdfunded to ensure he’d be able to stay at uni for another year.
But now he’s a familiar face at UCL – and is President of the Unicef and Socialist societies. As Disabled Students’ Officer at the SU (another role of his), Thines is working hard to ensure that UCL fulfils its promises of accessibility on campus.
Despite his prominent role in campus life, however, his idealistic dreams of university life were challenged even before he arrived last year – when the funding he was promised was cut on A-Level results day and he was left living a hand-to-mouth existence.
Thines says: “Freshers was hard. I could only meet a few people, because clubs and that kind of thing were impossible to access and I could only go to pre-drinks. Standard UCL clubs like XOYO, Roxy, Loop – they’re inaccessible for me.
“Financially, I have to pay for a room for a carer and myself. And my halls, the only ones accessible for people in a wheelchair, are among the most expensive.
“The difference between my loan and the cost of rent in halls is about £9,000. I get maximum loans, maximum bursaries and extra money from UCL. All the money I get from loans goes straight to my rent.
“I love what I do, but I work in order to eat. I have to go back to Lewisham every weekend because I can’t pay for a full-time carer.”
At the end of last year, Thines’ financial situation meant that it was unlikely that he’d be able to stay on at UCL.
The second year says: “My dad is a manual labourer and only earns £7K a year. I simply had no more money. So my friends started worrying about me and crowdsourced the funding I needed. Donations came flooding in from friends, teachers, people I didn’t even know.”
Overcoming challenge after challenge, Thines stays tenacious, positive and determined to make a difference.
“I often say I’m disabled by society rather than my condition. Society prevents me from fulfilling my ambitions.
“I want to do a masters in health policy and look into childrens health in the UK and ultimately across the world.
“I just don’t want others to go through the shit I’ve been through. That informs everything I do – I want to make positive change that ensures people like me, who’ve been let go by society and cocooned into themselves, don’t slip through the net.
“Health permitting, I think I can finish here. I’ve missed 7 – 8 weeks of university this year already, so I’m already behind! But as long as nothing else goes wrong, touch wood, I’ll be here.
Thines was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta by chance when he fell over in front of a Great Ormond Street doctor during a medical test. The rare disorder means his bones are brittle and break incredibly easily.
“But by my nature I’m very determined and I always feel there’s no point resting on my laurels. So I’d do extra work in hospital, push myself, and pursue my own interests. Despite never being there, I’d return to school ahead of my peers.”
“I was bullied when I went back. They’d never had a disabled person before and I was an ethnic minority. I was ostracized socially. It was considered too dangerous to let me go outside, so I spent lunchtime indoors.”
Thines became well-versed in the adult world because my best friends were my nurses and doctors. “We’d spend hours chatting – about history, about politics – but my support network was ultimately myself.”
Despite only attending a mainstream primary school for a total of six months across a period of three years, Thines won a scholarship to the prestigious Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in New Cross.
And despite facing bullying at school, he helped write a PhD for a lecturer at Greenwich University aged just 16.
Thanks to his unique insights into caring for disabled young people, Thines also guest lectures at Kings and Southbank along with teaching undergrad and postgrad nurses.
“People have told me I can’t do that, I can’t achieve this. Fuck that.”