It's Never Too Late To Get A Degree

Posted on: 01 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Education is for all, says 79 year old Fine Art graduate Ija Hird.


There’s no age limit to higher education and for proof of that look no further than Ija Hird from Luton, who at 79 has graduated with a 2:1 degree in Fine Art from the University of Bedfordshire.

Ija - pronounced Eeya - began her degree five years ago, aged 74, and studied part time at the Luton campus.

Gaining her degree is just the latest achievement in a fascinating life which began in 1929 in Latvia. After World War Two, Ija was living in a refugee camp in Germany and it was here that her artistic talent first became apparent. In 1947, aged just 18 and speaking no English, she came to work in the Lancashire Cotton Mills. She settled in England and married a policeman from Burnley before moving to Bedfordshire.

In order to train as a nurse Ija studied five O levels, four at the then Luton College of Technology, and one in art at Mander College, now Bedford College. It was at this point that she made a promise to study art at A level when she retired.

After twenty years working at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital and bringing up two sons, she retired, and keeping to her promise, completed an A level in art. Far from stopping there, Ija decided to go one step further and do a foundation course which led to her studying a degree at the University of Bedfordshire.

"I just hope that my story is an inspiration to both young and old," says the grandmother of four.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university and never felt that I was too old to do the course, although it was hard work. I was accepted by everyone and I really enjoyed working with my fellow students as well as the amazing facilities."

"I shall miss it all very much but I intend to carry on taking part in workshops and enjoying and developing my art for years to come."

As part of her degree Ija worked with arts and crafts, oils and watercolours. Her final exhibition piece consisted of silk screen prints which allowed her to develop her interest in the abstract.

Principal Lecturer in Fine Art, John Stephens says, "During her time with us it was clear that Ija had experienced a very eventful life, one that was seriously disrupted by the Second World War. We encouraged her to use her life experience as the basis for her work, which she did."

"Her dissertation, which addressed ideas about loss and displacement as expressed through art, allowed her to draw a parallel with her own life, whilst her final show of abstract screen prints drew inspiration from the layered patterns created through Easter egg staining traditions that she experienced as a child in her native Latvia."

"Ija’s work has impressed many, so much so that the University has purchased two of her pieces for its own art collection."

As well as continuing to work with her art Ija is looking forward to the birth of her third great grandchild.

Web Links

To find out more about studying art or design courses at the University of Bedfordshire you can call 01234 400400 or visit www.beds.ac.uk/departments/mediaartdesign.

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