Geoff Edwards, 52, says he left school at a young age with two qualifications and few ambitions, then ended up homeless in the city of Cambridge after work as a field labourer dried up.
Now Edwards is studying English literature, having completed a college course designed for adults who want to return to education or need extra qualifications to go on to university.
"I didn't think of applying to Cambridge - I didn't think Cambridge University would take someone like me, but my (course) tutor encouraged me to apply," Edwards said in a statement.
"It is the first thing I am proud of in my life," he said.
The number of homeless people in Britain has soared past 300,000 - an increase of 4 percent on last year - with one in 200 sleeping rough, the housing charity Shelter said this week.
Edwards said selling "The Big Issue" - a magazine founded in 1991 to help the homeless earn a living - while sleeping on the streets had helped give him back "a bit of self-respect".
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