Press release

Fellow mother's academic success inspires graduand Iliana

Published on 17 June 2019

All parents returning to education face additional challenges so when Iliana Francia-Elliott found out she was pregnant with her second child partway through her studies she knew she had a major decision to make.

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Iliana will receive a First Class Honours Art & Philosophy degree on Wednesday, the first day of this year’s University of Dundee summer Graduation ceremonies. The event comes less than three years since she and her partner Jim learned they were to be parents again.

Knowing how demanding newborns are and the pressure she was already under balancing her responsibilities as mother to Kayleigh (now 8) with her studies, Iliana gave serious thought to dropping out of her course at the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. She admits she may well have done were it not for an article she had read shortly before receiving the happy news.

“I was delighted but I did worry about what it would mean for my studies,” she said. “Having been through it before my first thought when I found out I was pregnant was that I couldn’t do both. It wasn’t long after the 2016 University graduation and I had read about a student called Pippa Bell who was graduating in medicine after having two babies while she was a student. The story had stuck with me because I was thinking about how hard it would be to study when you’ve just given birth. Then I found out I was facing the same situation!

“Studying at art college had been a lifelong dream for me and I was determined not to let my chance pass by. Pippa’s story really gave me confidence that I could possibly do it. It often felt impossible but I’ve managed to get through somehow.”

Danny was born in March 2017 following a difficult pregnancy that saw Iliana hospitalised due to hyperemesis gravidarum, an extreme form of morning sickness that led to her being hooked up to an IV drip while her classmates attended lectures and developed their practice.

Iliana was allowed to work from home for the last couple of months of her second year at Duncan of Jordanstone and was handing in coursework right up to Danny’s birth and beyond. The essay which accounted for a major part of her grade for the year was typed one-handed as her newborn tended to cry whenever Iliana tried to put him down. She resumed full studio practice at the start of third year in September 2017.

Iliana (33) was born in Athens and raised in Chesterfield before moving to Scotland with Jim 14 years ago. She worked as an Employment Training Assistant but her dream was always to study art and she applied four times before she was accepted to Duncan of Jordanstone. Her final year work dealt with the inevitable challenges and compromises arising from being both a mother and artist.

“It has been great for me to express myself creatively but it definitely comes with guilt because you wonder if you are giving your children everything they need,” she continued. “I didn’t have a break before coming back to university so it was very difficult to deal with the demands of the course on top of having a newborn baby and my daughter, who had just started school.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support networks I have at university and at home. Jim has been great and my tutors and colleagues have been amazing with the amount of support they have given me as well.”

The University’s Summer Graduation takes place at the Caird Hall from Wednesday 19 June to Friday 21 June, with two ceremonies each day. Thousands of new graduates will cross the stage over the course of the week, joining one of the major celebrations in the University calendar. Iliana will be accompanied by Jim and Kayleigh at her Graduation before they pick up Danny – who it is feared would struggle to sit through the ceremony.


Press Office, University of Dundee