21/12/2011 09:56 GMT | Updated 21/12/2011 10:48 GMT

Lauren Thompson, Disabled Student Who Could 'Never Walk Again', Collects Degree

A disabled student who was told she would never walk or talk again has taken her first steps to collect her 2:1 degree in criminology.

Lauren Thompson, 25, from Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, was forced to abandon her studies in 2006 at the beginning of her third year after she nearly died as a passenger in a serious car crash.

She returned to the University of Manchester last year despite enduring brain injuries, a month in a coma, a year in a wheelchair and mobility problems with her arms and legs.

Still experiencing serious disabilities, she walked a few steps unaided for the first time to pick up her degree last Friday in front of a cheering audience at the university's Whitworth Hall.

Miss Thompson said: "I was very emotional when I received the degree as not very long ago I thought it was something which was beyond me.

"It was amazing to be able to walk for my degree ceremony at one of the best universities in the country."

So determined was Miss Thompson to complete her degree that she studied law books as part of her rehabilitation programme.

But the injuries make it tiring for her to read more than 15 pages without a break.

She added: "It was hard work and because everything takes so much longer for me to do I didn't really have that much time for a social life.

"But it was worth it. I really love the subject and one day I'd like to take a Masters degree in crime, law and society."

She added that she could not have gained her degree without the support of her family and the university's School of Law and disability support office.

The university provided Miss Thompson with a note-taker for lectures and seminars, a library assistant and some ergonomic computer equipment.

Her exams were taken in the disability support office so she could have rest breaks.

Her tutor, Dr Jon Spencer, said: "Lauren is an absolute inspiration to any disabled - or for that matter non-disabled - person. She just doesn't know when to give up.

"Her degree is an amazing achievement and reflects her immense gifts."

University disability adviser Sam Ward said: "Lauren is one of many disabled students who have graduated this year.

"The real heroes in this story are colleagues in the School of Law and Lauren herself.

"She's a perfect example of how, with the right support, even someone with severe disabilities can achieve great things. Lauren is fantastic and an example to us all."