Bridlington woman Ruby Walker receives first class honours degree from University of Oxford

Left: Ruby on her graduation day at Oxford. Right: Ruby pictured with proud parents Lisa and Paul.
Left: Ruby on her graduation day at Oxford. Right: Ruby pictured with proud parents Lisa and Paul.

A 21-year-old Bridlington woman has graduated from Oxford with a first class honours degree.

Ruby Walker attended the graduation ceremony last week to receive her History degree after being born with Retinoblastoma.

Now the former Scarborough Sixth Form student wants to show that going to Oxford is “more accessible to people with lower socio-economic backgrounds”.

She said: “I feel that there’s a mentality that people around here don’t go to Oxford but we can and we can do well. I want to hopefully change that attitude as we didn’t know anyone who had been there before.

“Some elements are definitely black tie events and balls but also what a lot of people don’t see is the community aspect of the college. If you look at Oxford in general you would think about the reputation it has but the college has a relaxed environment.

"They had lots of extra curricular activities and I gave tours to year 11s and volunteered to try and make the Oxford experience more accessible to people with lower socio-economic backgrounds.”

Ruby said she was convinced to apply following a talk from the university at Scarborough Sixth Form College.

“The open evening was really nice and showed a different side to Oxford, a more informal side because previously I never thought it would be something for me.”

She went above and beyond in her A-level exams with two A*s and an A to receive her place at Oxford; she needed three As to earn her place.

Talking about finding out about her results, Ruby said: “I was really shocked and surprised but obviously really happy. I also got some really nice emails from my all my tutors. They all were really nice and offered a lot of support.”

Her mum and dad, Lisa and Paul Walker, are also “very proud” of their daughter’s achievement. Lisa said: “She’s always liked perfection and likes things done well. She has always worked really hard – it’s been stressful but it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Speaking about making people aware of how accessible Oxford is, Lisa added: “It is accessible if you have the intelligence and if you want it it’s available to you. If you can get the grades you can do it. If they hadn’t come to college she would have thought it was accessible to her. You think it’s out of our reach and we can’t go there. But you can.”

The family also added the bursaries are available including The Lords Feoffees, The Sutton Trust and bursaries from the university.

Ruby has achieved excellent grades throughout her education despite being born with Retinoblastoma, cancer of the eyes.

She was first diagnosed at three months old and has had to have numerous treatments including laser and chemotherapy. Mum Lisa had Ruby’s eyes checked when she “had a gut feeling there something wasn’t right”.

She said: “We were away at Easter and I thought something was wrong with her eye so took her to Boots and asked them to look at her. We went into the room and I knew something was wrong as soon as I looked at his face. He told me that we needed to see a specialist.”

Ruby was referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the family then endured a tough few years of chemotherapy.

The 21-year-old has fortunately not had any new tumours since her last chemotherapy session at two years old.

She now visits Leeds Hospital once a year for a check-up.