Alumni engagement and philanthropy

SOCIAL WORKER GRADUATES AFTER 20 YEARS  Frances McCullough in lower quad at Queen's wearing turquoise jacket

15 December 2021

It may have taken her 20 years, but Queen’s graduate Frances McCullough has just come away from Queen’s qualified for her dream career as a Social Worker.

Frances grew up in care and knew from a young age that this was the job she wanted to do. She started her Social Work course at Queen’s in 2001 but realised pretty quickly that she wasn’t quite ready for it and was disappointed not to pass her final placement.  

She went on to work in the voluntary sector for 15 years and had two sons, but the dream of being a Social Worker never really went away. So Frances bit the bullet and headed back to Queen’s. This time she had student support which helped her learn how to structure assignments and reference properly.    

Speaking about her Queen’s experience second time around Frances said:  

“I loved the experience of going back to something that I felt I was born to do. This time everything made sense and my lived experience of the world of work helped me on my journey.  

“I also had support from Queen’s as I was a student who grew up in care and had wonderful support from my tutor, Dr Joe Duffy.”    

In her final year, life became challenging for Frances, navigating out of a difficult relationship from her husband. Adjusting to the changes in her finances, looking after her two young sons – one with Asperger’s and one with hearing difficulties – and caring for her elderly mother, also added a strain to her life. However, she did not give up her dream and last week returned to Queen’s to pick up a first.   

“Queen’s staff were so supportive and encouraged me to keep going to achieve my dreams,” continued Frances.

“I can't thank them enough – it’s only taken me 20 years but I have managed to get there and even came out qualified with a first! I am now working full-time as a Social Worker with Looked After Children, and I feel like I have come full circle.”  

Frances McCullough was awarded a First Class Honours Degree (BSc Hons) in Social Work on Thursday 9 December, 2021.

Visit Widening Participation to support widening access to higher education at Queen's. Alternatively, contact Viv Harris, Development Manager in Queen’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, or for more on this and other projects go to the Queen's University of Belfast Foundation website.

Media enquiries to For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact the Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

Back to Main News









Top of Page