Returning to education as a mature student

Watching a child go off to university can inspire parents to go back to the classroom.

Every year, thousands of mature students enrol on courses at university or college. 

They see it as a great opportunity to extend their knowledge, develop new skills or pursue a change of career.

Mature students often have a clearer idea of what they want to study as taking time out of education has helped them to find out what motivates and interests them.

Anyone over the age of 21 is classed as a mature student and they will find that course providers value their enthusiasm, skills and experience.

Around a third of undergraduates are mature students – of all ages and backgrounds – and they form an important part of the university or college community.

Whether they are studying both full time or part-time, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The fear that many older people have, of returning to education and being the only person who hasn’t been with their classmates since school, is unfounded. 

It’s estimated that 40 per cent of those in the UK are over the age of 30 and have had work, mortgage or family responsibilities.

For some, enrolling can be prompted by a feeling of having missed out on life opportunities or having ended up in jobs that they simply don’t enjoy.

A higher education course is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking and one that isn’t entered into lightly. 

The key advantages of being a mature student include the practical skills developed through life experience such as independent living and budgeting, as well as personal traits such as confidence in giving presentations as well as time and project management skills.

Lecturers appreciate that the decision to return to learning means mature students are highly motivated and committed to their college or university studies. 

Mature students tend to have a more focused attitude to study and a strong vision of where a qualification will take them.

For anyone considering this path, UCAS says not to worry if you don’t have the right qualifications. 

You can discuss alternatives with course providers, such as taking an access course, or getting accreditation for prior learning, life experience or work experience.

Experts recommend researching course options thoroughly to ensure they meet expectations.

In the same way they are available to school-leavers, loans can be applied for to fund studies. 

There are no age limits to student finance, so you can apply at any time of life – as long as it’s the first time you’ll be studying for a degree. 

Financial help is also available for students with children or adult dependants.