Returning to Education

If your time spent in Covid-19 lockdown has been a time of reflection and left you thinking about a return to study our Graduate Advocate, Fiona Hough, a former mature student has some great advice…

Returning to Education

Thinking about returning to education as a mature learner can be a very scary prospect, with many prospective students put off. The ideas of organising student finance, not studying in an academic setting for a while and concern at “being the oldest” in class can be off putting for some. 

So why do it? 

Mature learners have several reasons for returning to education. These reasons can include wanting to change careers to something completely different (such as taking a postgraduate course in teaching, or taking an undergraduate course to become a social worker), wanting better prospects in a current career and a degree would therefore be beneficial, and sometimes, just wanting to learn a subject that’s always been of interest!

As well as those reasons for returning to do either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, on average people with degrees earn more over their lifetimes than those without, so this is another benefit to returning to study. 

It’s not just study

University also offers societies to join and many will have a Mature Students society to join where you can meet and chat. But there’s so many more to join than just that one. From Harry Potter Societies and David Attenborough Appreciation societies to traditional style societies such as sports, debate and film to more intriguing ones such as the 30 Minute Society (where you are simply sent a post code and have 30 minutes to get there and the activity there is free). There are societies that cover almost every interest, and if there isn’t one for your interest you can always create it!

Money money money….

Finance is always a concern for students of all ages, but for mature students, it’s generally the biggest concern and a huge barrier to returning to education, so this blog will concentrate on this barrier. 

For first time undergraduates, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to pay tuition fees up front. The majority of first time undergraduates will be eligible for the Tuition Fee loan from the Government and you don’t start repaying the loan until you’re employed and earning over £26,575.

You may also be eligible for a Maintenance Loan which is based if your personal circumstances, and depending on those personal living circumstances, may reduce the need to work whilst studying. However for some people stopping working is either not possible or they don’t want to stop working whilst studying. 

If you fall into this category, there’s plenty of other options. If you’re already working, you can ask to reduce your hours and study part-time to fit around that, maintaining an income whilst studying. You can also look at jobs that fit around your course hours. Supermarkets and bars are great for looking at part time hours. Jobs on the university campus are really great for this. There will be a range of roles and hours on the university campus, from student ambassadors to library assistants to catering assistants to sports centre staff. There’s pretty much a part time job for everyone. The best part about working for the university you attend is the understanding when you have an assignment or dissertation to complete and the dreaded deadlines are creeping up. Being employed by the university itself generally gives more leeway if you need to reduce your hours to spend more time completing assignments. 

Other places to look for financial help….

As well as working and Student Finance England, there can be other places to look for financial help. The internet is great for searching for charities that offer assistance for students from all circumstances. Charities such as The Princes Trust also offer a list of resources to use to apply for assistance when studying in Higher Education. 

Last advice

My last advice is this, if you want to do it, go for it. Returning to education after a period of time away can be daunting and scary to start with, but once you’re at graduation holding your degree certificate, it’s all worth it!

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