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Husband and wife graduate with master's degrees in same week

east london and thames river

Former tube driver Adrian Nicholls inspired to study by his wife, Caroline 

By Lee Pinkerton 

A north London couple who enrolled at the University of East London (UEL) as mature students have shown impressive brainpower by graduating in the same week with master’s degrees.

Adrian Nicholls, who worked as a tube driver while studying part-time, graduated last week with an MSc in Occupational & Organisational Psychology. 

But Adrian did not just pass. He achieved the highest set of marks of anybody who has ever taken this particular degree at UEL. 

In the same week, his wife, Caroline, graduated with an MA in Human Resource Management.

The pair enjoyed a double helping of celebrations during their respective graduation ceremonies at London’s indigo at The 02.

It is a rich reward for several years of hard work in which the couple have had to balance studying, working and being parents of two young children.

“Caroline’s lectures were after her work hours and mine were mainly at weekends,” said Adrian. “Because I do shift work, we could arrange childcare.”

Adrian grew up in Barbados but left school at 16. He moved to the UK in 1998 at the age of 24.

He made his home in Tottenham, and after first securing a job as a teaching assistant, moved on to London Underground, starting out as a customer service assistant before becoming a tube driver in 2003. But after some years in the job, he wanted something more.

“Because I didn’t do well in school I always felt that I wasn’t reaching my full potential,” he said. “I wanted to go back to study but procrastinated. I thought that since I was working full time, I didn’t have the time.”

It was his wife who inspired him to go to university. Caroline, who works as an administrator at Raynham Primary School in Edmonton, enrolled at the UEL as a mature student to study for a bachelor’s degree in Events Management. She was working and also pregnant when she embarked on her course.

“I thought if she could do all that, then I had no excuse,” said Adrian.

The year that she graduated (2011) was the year that Adrian enrolled as a mature student at UEL to study for a bachelor’s degree Psychology.

But because he did not have any ‘A’ levels, he first had to enrol onto UEL’s New Beginnings access course, which prepares mature students without traditional academic qualifications for degree-level study.

Once he had completed the course successfully, he enrolled on a four-year extended degree in Psychology, completing that in 2015. 

He and Caroline then decided to go one step higher on the academic ladder by embarking on master’s degrees.

“The skills that you gain in psychology can be used in other areas,” said Adrian. “I was thinking of moving into management in my organisation.  But in this day and age, a lot of people have a degree.  Having a master’s puts you on another level.”

Adrian’s efforts have already brought career benefits as he is now on a sixth-month secondment as a manager at Transport for London. Meanwhile, Caroline is looking to advance her career in the field of human resources.