UCW Student To Graduate After Battling Serious Illness

Jeremy Plumley

UCW BSc (Hons) degree in Counselling student, John Byrne

A University Centre Weston (UCW) student will graduate this weekend despite having suffered from throat cancer for much of the academic year.

John Byrne kept up with his studies while receiving treatment for the disease and has now earned a BSc (Hons) degree in Counselling.

Along with more than 500 other UCW graduates, he will receive his degree at a ceremony at the Conference Centre in Weston on Saturday (24th September).

The 51-year-old was diagnosed with cancer in November and immediately underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and complications made him so unwell that he was put on a life support machine for ten days.

Thankfully, John is now well on the road to recovery having been in remission since March.

He said: “I was doing my reading for the course and working on a laptop in hospital because I didn’t want the cancer to take my degree away from me.

“At times it seemed like an impossible task, but I received so much support from my family and friends and everyone at UCW that I was determined to keep going.

“I’m so pleased that I will be able to graduate as planned with everyone else on my course.”

John was unable to attend lectures due to stays in the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Weston General Hospital and Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

So his lecturers on the degree, which is delivered in partnership with Bath Spa University, provided course materials and feedback to help him persevere.

UCW Counselling lecturer Barbara Feldtkeller said: “John has been such an inspiration to the tutor team at UCW and his peers on the course, I hope he has a really enjoyable and memorable day on Saturday.

“His diagnosis a few weeks into the beginning of the programme came as a shock to all of us, but he was determined to carry on, so we just kept supporting him.”

John, who grew up in London, earned further education qualifications from Weston College before enrolling on a two-year higher education Foundation Degree with UCW in 2013.

He now plans to study for a Master’s degree in Counselling after completing the one-year top-up to earn full Honours.

24% of UCW students graduating with full Honours have earned First Class degrees, and the overall pass rate is 94%.

Of the students on the BSc (Hons) Applied Computing course, which is delivered in partnership with UWE Bristol, 47% will graduate with First Class Honours.