Failing all her A Levels aged 18 did not deter Bharti Tailor from pursuing a degree and successful career.
The mum-of-two was in her thirties when she decided to do study for a degree.
This week Bharti returned to her alma mater at the invitation of the Alumni Relations Office – 16 years after graduating, as a woman who runs her own consultancy firm and represents two million Hindus as President of the Hindu Forum of Europe.
Last summer her key engagements included lunch with the Queen and chaplain at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Bharti told students that completing the University’s Community Management course –aged 37 – was part of the reason why she went from being a primary carer at a school, to creating a successful career in Health Trusts.
Explaining how her course had steered her to volunteer for numerous religious charitable organisations, she said: “The course gave me the skills to work in community organisations and help them link with government, as well as to deal with group dynamics.
“With my responsibilities as a primary carer, and breadwinner and family ties, without this University on my doorstep I would never have been able to study and progress.”
Bharti said her success started while she was at the University, when she was headhunted in 1996 to help launch the charity Home Start in Luton.
She then used her experience of working in counselling in education, having a degree, and volunteering to her advantage and progressed through various jobs – while continuing to volunteer.
And it was volunteering (including chaplaincy roles at the University, two prisons, a further education college and an immigration detention centre), which has enabled her to travel the world and represent the Hindu Forum of Britain and then the European Forum.
A surprise invite to lunch for eight (including Lewis Hamilton) at Buckingham Palace was just one of the memorable tales Bharti recalled.
“When I asked why I was invited, I was told the Queen thought I would be interesting to meet,” she said. “To hear that is such an honour, and although I do not know if she remembers me, I know the Duke of Edinburgh does, as when our paths crossed again, he mentioned it.”
Her advice to the audience was to work with integrity, be resilient, use networks, volunteer, keep records, and be open and collaborative.