Happy returns

Mature students are not the only ones to benefit. By Wendy Berliner
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The Independent Online

Time was that the vast majority of students going into higher education were school-leavers. A minority of the privileged and wealthy ones may have taken a year out to work or to travel at their parents' expense - but most didn't.

Time was that the vast majority of students going into higher education were school-leavers. A minority of the privileged and wealthy ones may have taken a year out to work or to travel at their parents' expense - but most didn't.

However, that was at a time when only a tiny proportion of the population went into higher education. Big expansion of the higher education system in the latter half of the 20th century to meet the economy's needs has changed all of that.

The vast majority of part-time students at university and college of higher education are mature (at least 21), in other words not much older than you are now. By far the largest numbers are in their early twenties with the second highest numbers in their later twenties.

The numbers of people entering higher education for their first time in their thirties or forties drops, but the figure is still in the thousands.

Mature students are big business. If you are a school-leaver who has missed your grades and are determined that there is no more formal education for you now, don't rule out coming back - perhaps sooner than you think.

A period of employment in a job that lacks sufficient prospects may be the turning point, or you may mature to the point that you are ready to go back to learning.

One of the plus points about being a mature student is that admissions tutors look at more than exam grades. They will assess your experience in life to date. They might recommend that you take an access course, perhaps at a college of further education, to brush up your study skills if you have been out of the education system for a long time. That will have the advantage of showing you whether you are up to speed and ready to take the jump up to higher education.

A lot of mature students tend to study in their own local area, often because they have ties there, but you don't have to. You can still qualify for loans, grants, bursaries and tuition fee remission, in the same way that a school-leaver can. Lifelong learning is not just a slogan - it's there for anyone who wants to take the plunge.

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