Now a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth Dr Brian Baily gave a talk on Coastal Management as part of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) week.
Dr Baily had been a builder when he first came to Highbury College in 1991 to complete an Access to Higher Education Diploma as an adult learner.
The Level 3 diploma is specifically designed for students aged 19+ to provide the foundation knowledge and skills to prepare them for a degree in higher education.
Of his visit to the College, he said: “It was slightly nerve-wracking because you want to do well, but the students seemed to like the talk and were very friendly. It did bring back some memories and everyone was really nice.”
Dr Baily went on to study geography at the University of Portsmouth and continued to complete a PhD.
He stayed on at the university in a post-graduate role as a Research Fellow.
Overt time, Dr Baily's career progressed and in 2013 became Senior Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Assessment.
Born and bred in Portsmouth, Dr Baily says his toughest year of study ever was when he completed his diploma at Highbury College.
At the time, he was 27 years old, had three children to look after and a mortgage to pay off while he finished his qualification.
He added: “It changed my life completely, it was my most important year in terms of education and I ended up doing the job which I thought was such a distant dream. I think my best moment was my C in maths. It the first thing I ever passed so it was significant for me.”
Dr Baily added the staff were great and the College even helped him access financial support to help him cope with his mortgage payments while studying.
He also had some advice for any mature students who are thinking of going back into education.
He said: “Be brave and go for it, I very nearly turned around and walked out so I think you need to be brave. Don’t think you’re not as good as the next person. I think there are a lot of opportunities open to people, and I think mature students are very motivated as they understand what’s at stake and work a lot harder as a result.”