FROM PARENTS' GUIDE: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Back to uni: Getting off to a flying restart

These days, it's never too late to start learning, as Vickie Osborne found out.

When single mother of two Vickie Osborne struck up a conversation with a fellow wedding guest three years ago, an idea once dismissed as a pipe dream was suddenly a real possibility. Today, the 38-year-old with three O-levels is a first-class honours graduate looking forward to a Masters degree in psychology, following a successful three years in and out of the library at the University of Kent's Medway campus.

Having left school at 16, Vickie got caught up in a succession of low-paid office jobs and felt academically unfulfilled, but was inspired by speaking to a student who illuminated the possibility of fitting a degree course around children and family commitments. Sure enough, Vickie found completing the course alongside looking after her children - Connor, 14, and Jade, 16 - a challenging, yet ultimately rewarding experience: "As long as you're organised, it just becomes part of your daily lifestyle."

Vickie is not alone: tens of thousands across the UK are swapping the office for the lecture theatre every year. "The typical student being an 18-21 year old is a myth," suggested Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, introducing a conference on lifelong learning. "Nearly every other student in higher education is a mature student. Higher education's role in lifelong learning is growing." Today, over-25s are in the majority. The government has strongly advocated increased participation in higher education in order to preserve Britain's global economic competitiveness.

Unlike Vickie, the majority of mature students elect to study part-time in order to continue with their full-time job. A part-time undergraduate degree will typically take around five to six years to complete. Some employers may even help fund an academic course if it is relevant to the job, and around 50,000 students in the UK are currently being sponsored to study.

Those unable to gain sponsorship may be eligible to receive financial support from the Learning and Skills Council (www.learndirect-advice.co.uk/featured/alg/), in the form of an adult learning grant of up to £30 a week. Parents with younger children may also qualify for support from the Childcare Support Fund. Adult learning degrees offer not just the possibility of academic achievement and career advancement, but also of personal fulfilment.

"When you achieve something like this it shows you what you're capable of and teaches you to value yourself," says Vickie. The potential for education later in life to enrich your personal life cannot be underestimated, opening a whole new range of social opportunities.

For many, attempting a degree in later life represents a chance to lay to rest the feeling that they under-performed at school. Admission requirements are often more flexible for mature students; a range of qualifications is accepted, and access courses provided by some universities offer an entry route into higher education for those without the usual academic requirements.

Those with extensive non-academic work experience may find themselves in an enviable position when it comes to starting a degree. "Because of all my work and life experience they were happy to give me a place on the course," says Vickie. Many universities have a Continuing Education department, and in fact offer courses specifically designed for adults.

Many older students discover that once they have caught the education bug, it stays with them for life. Not content with just using her brain, Vickie now intends to study its inner workings. She has developed an interest in neuropsychology, and begins a psychology conversion course at the Open University in January, with the eventual aim of pursuing a PhD. Supported open learning of the kind practised by the Open University affords another flexible alternative for older learners who have to juggle the daily commitments of family life. Vickie's message to others is that it is never too late to start. "I just want everybody to do it now! It's an experience that will stay with me for life."

Vickie's success has also been an inspiration to her children. Jade is intent on studying law on leaving school in two years and Connor is talking about going to university. Adult learning presents a real opportunity for social mobility: parents can inspire a new generation of children who would otherwise never have considered applying.

Parents interested in investigating the option of higher education can visit their local Adult Guidance Service or careers company for help and advice. The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) also publishes a comprehensive guide for mature students.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week