The end of an era. Foundation Centre Director Catherine Marshall is retiring. Students and staff thank Catherine for all her hard work.

Some of you might already know that our Foundation director Catherine Marshall is retiring.

Catherine started working at the Durham University Access Programme run by Adult and Continuing Education in September 1994. She was teaching Biology once a week and got so involved that it turned into a full-time teaching position.

We are all glad that it did. We asked staff and students to tell us about Catherine and here is what they had to say.

Staff – She enjoys teaching, but hates marking. Catherine is a very supportive person who has helped numerous students (and staff) with personal issues. Catherine is a friendly, sociable person and is a proud mother of two strapping young men.

Student – She taught us biology and is diligent as a teacher, she is very qualified. She knew how to transfer her knowledge onto her students.

Student – She is a very good teacher, she will stay and help you understand things until she is sure you get all of it. When I first got here I was terrified and Catherine was the one who made me see that you don’t need to be afraid of your teachers and encouraged me to ask for help. She offered me all the support I needed personally and academically.

Student – Catherine taught me Anatomy and Biology and I loved it. She is a great teacher, and person. She is friendly and supportive.

Student – Catherine is approachable, understanding, and her teaching abilities are really something special. I did A level biology, most of which went over my head, and by the end of my first class with Catherine I had fully understood something I had spent weeks trying to revise at home. Her lessons were fun, she has a great sense of humour and went beyond just that topic for a wider understanding of concepts and general applications. Context makes abstract scientific principles much more interesting!

Student – Catherine is the kind of teacher that inspires your interest and passion for the subject. If I had a teacher like her when I was at school my academic choices would have been so different

Staff – Catherine is the master of the withering stare, which can be intimidating until you realise she is also usually very understanding and forgiving. She has always been particularly understanding about the importance of family, and made sure to extend extra support to staff experiencing family issues, for which I am truly grateful. She also always makes time for people, whether students or staff, and she genuinely cares about both.  

Student – I loved the random advice that we got from her throughout the year. Such as don’t eat polar bear liver, don’t drown in fresh water, and don’t get stabbed in the liver.

Student – She is the best teacher I have ever had. She is so enthusiastic, engaging, and she brings cookies to lessons. Best academic advisor you can wish for.

Student – She is so approachable, understanding and empathetic. I had some personal issues and I came to her for advice. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have completed the Foundation year and proceeded onto my degree.

Student – Catherine was my academic advisor as well as teacher for three of my modules this year. She is so knowledgeable and professional. It feels like she knows the answers to everything, no matter what students asked, she provided an answer. She is also incredible at using different teaching styles and I think that’s why we all enjoy her modules so much. She makes difficult things easy to understand and I think I will remember the DNA cookbook recipe analogy for the rest of my life.

catherine with students



We also asked Catherine some questions:

 What is the best thing about the Foundation Centre?

The students – we only have them for a year, but we get to know them so well and we follow their progress through their degrees, it feels like a huge family that keeps on growing. 

Why is the Foundation Centre so special for you?

I feel very privileged to have been part of so many journeys; to feel that I have been able to facilitate students progressing and being able to access an education that would otherwise not be available to them is an honour.

Why are you leaving/what are you going do now? (Just because a lot of students have asked me at the end of the year celebration)

My husband, Adrian, retired last year and we want to spend time together travelling, both abroad to places like South America (I’ve started learning Spanish) and South-East Asia, but also here in the UK – there’s so much beautiful landscape and so many wonderful places in the UK – and we plan to take our dog and our caravan and explore.  I also plan to make more of my garden – I love growing things.  I won’t leave the Foundation Centre completely though; I hope to engage with some projects.

What are you going miss the most?

The staff- we really are very collegiate, all focused on supporting and helping students makes for a lovely working environment.

What can you wish for the Foundation Centre?

I hope that the University continues to value and appreciate the huge amount of skill and expertise in the Centre.  There’s a huge opportunity for the Centre to support students more widely as part of the new Learning and Teaching Centre which is such a positive step forward. 

We are all sad that Catherine is leaving our Foundation Centre family and struggle to imagine it without her.

Staff – I don’t expect Catherine and Adrian to be the type of people who will live a quiet existence at home now that they’ve retired – I’ve no doubt that they will continue to be very active, making the most of their freedom to do some travelling.

Staff – It’s hard to imagine Catherine retired! She once told me she’d love to do an MA in anthropology or similar, and I know she has many interests such as music, camping, good food, travel and reading. I hope she has time to explore these fully while spending time with her extended family.

So we wish Catherine all the very best in this new stage of her life and we hope that she will come and visit us when she gets bored of travelling!

bye catherine!


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