Shedding Light on the Trend of Older Students Returning to College

In Britain, universities are attracting more mature students. In the past twenty years or so, some British universities have been actively trying to attract older students by offering part time courses, special open days and the like.

These mature students are mostly over thirty years old; they may be married, have a career and domestic responsibilities and study part time. They have life experience and come to university because they choose to do so rather than just because it is expected of them.

So why is this trend continuing? Twenty years ago some British universities realized that mature students were a money spinner because, at that time, young students’ tuition was paid by the government, at a low rate, but older students either paid their own tuition fees, or their employer sponsored them. British universities became very much more welcoming to mature students, and they took time, and trouble, to discover the particular needs of adult students and how they could cater for them.

Now it is accepted that most young people go to university but it was not so in the past. In the 1970’s, from one secondary school year group of 120, only 15 went to university.  In the 1970’s, British youngsters only went to university if they were from wealthy homes, or if they were academically brilliant. Most ordinary young people left school at 15 or 16 years old and went to work or entered an apprenticeship to learn a trade. Many families still believed that education was wasted on girls. Many families simply could not afford to send their children to university, and not going out to work bringing in a wage.

Many of those young people successfully held down jobs, raised families, and paid their bills and taxes but always thought that they had missed out on education. Others need a degree to advance further in their careers. Some people get to a point in their lives and realize that they would really like to change their career completely and need a degree to do so. In the present economic climate, many people realize that they could command a better salary, if only they had a degree. Some mature students go to university for the sheer love of learning. There are as many reasons for adult students going to university as there are adult students.

 British universities today are not the closed, frightening and secret worlds that they once were. They actively welcome and cater for mature students. Life long education is a real aspiration these days. Mature students feel able to apply to go to university. They no longer have to accept limited horizons and can dare to dream. The trend of older students returning to college is likely to continue.