Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Leigh Mencarini Case Study

Leigh Mencarini

Recent History of Art graduate Leigh, who came to higher education as a mature student, shares her experiences of studying later in life and her commitment to widening access to higher education.

Studying later in life

Leigh had originally enrolled on a Social Studies degree through Warwick’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. However, after the death of her father in 2020 her priorities changed, and she decided to pursue History of Art - a subject she had long been passionate about.

Whilst her career as a journalist meant that she had plenty of experience hitting deadlines, juggling her course requirements with professional and parental responsibilities was a collaborative effort between her and the department.

“My department was as responsive as possible when I asked for timetables and field trip dates to plan ahead,” she says.

“Having the confidence to state my needs as a student with additional responsibilities is something I realise I have developed with age. Studying later in life meant I had the confidence to do this, but there are a lot of students out there who need support from the University to ensure they can achieve the best they can.”

Widening support for mature students – and beyond

Leigh has worked on several initiatives to expand the support available to mature and Widening Participation students. These included sitting on the Widening Participation (WP) Student Advisory Group and a summer research project funded by the Institute of Advanced Learning (IATL).

The summer research project used student feedback to create a charter of recommendations to improve the mature student experience – but Leigh hopes there are wider improvements to be taken from it as well.

“I hope the project report continues to be shared to help staff better understand the specific challenges faced not only by mature students, but anyone navigating widening participation barriers.

“Being a member of the WP Student Advisory Group also enabled me to contribute in a similar way, and it put me in touch with intelligent, brave and inspiring students from a variety of backgrounds not dissimilar to my own.”

Post-graduation: a career in higher education engagement begins

Whilst she hasn't ruled out further study, Leigh has joined the Dean of Students office as a Student Engagement Officer post-graduation, where she will continue to help people from a variety of backgrounds enjoy the benefits of higher education.

“This is an exciting new pathway for me and it's something I care an awful lot about - I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do this without accessing Warwick's WP initiatives” she says.

“I've earned the degree that I always felt I missed out on before, something of which I'm deeply proud. Most importantly, I've learned so much more about the world we live in and the structural barriers that impact us all through the lens of visual arts.

“Sadly, my mum also died suddenly during my final year. She too was very aware of those barriers, and I know that both my parents would be proud of the result I achieved. It has been, and continues to be, a great honour to be part of the Warwick community.”