Britons turning into 'eternal students'

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The Independent Online

MIllions of adults are turning into "eternal students", with record numbers going back to college later in life to gain further qualifications, new research shows.

MIllions of adults are turning into "eternal students", with record numbers going back to college later in life to gain further qualifications, new research shows.

A study published today suggests that four out of 10 people over the age of 25 have returned to education within the past 10 years, having already gained school or university qualifications.

The findings, based on interviews with nearly 1,000 people, show that, among those who had not yet returned to studying, one in five plans to do so within the next five years. Those in the youngest age group, 25 to 34, were most inclined to return to education, with nearly one-third of those who had studied in the past 12 months planning to do so again next year.

People who return to education in later life mainly do so by taking evening classes or correspondence courses, or by going on intensive study weeks. They acquire qualifications ranging from GCSEs to degrees, in subjects from acupuncture to zoology.

"There is a definite trend towards continual study in Britain today," said Louise Nichols of Britannica Encyclopaedias, which commissioned the study. "We have longer working lives than previous generations, creating a need to refresh knowledge and skills on a regular basis.

"Adults are becoming more interested in ongoing education. Increasingly we see a genuine desire to embark on selfmotivated, self-funded learning aimed at broadening knowledge and skills throughout our lives," she said.

The favourite subject for mature students is computer studies, followed by foreign languages and business studies. Psychology and alternative medicine are also popular courses, coming in at seventh and ninth respectively.

Accountancy is the least popular subject, attracting only 1 per cent of people who continue their education later in life. Only 15 per cent of those studying for teaching qualifications in the past five years were mature students, despite the wide availability of jobs in the profession.

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