Mature learners, Student Experience

Does age matter? By Claire Jones

Chief of UCAS (the organisation that manages applications to UK universities) has caused a bit of a stir this week by saying that university is sometimes ‘wasted’ on the young as teenagers often choose the wrong degree courses and may ‘sleepwalk’ into an undergraduate programme. Mary Curnock Cook, as reported in the Daily Telegraph, urged school leavers to defer a degree until they were in their 20s or 30s to ensure they made the right decision. But is that the only reason why it is an advantage to go to University as a mature student?

It is interesting to note that Ms Curnock Cook did not enter University herself until her 40s, having left school at 16 and worked as a Secretary before transferring to sales and ultimately getting an MSc from the London Business School in 2001.

Going to University late has certainly not held her back…

Go Higher has preparing mature individuals for access to undergraduate programmes for some 14 years and, typically, the experience of our students when they progress onto a degree course is a great advert for learning later in life. Go Highers have been exposed to a range of disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences, so are making an informed choice when they commence their undergraduate studies.

Madame_Bovary_by_Gustave_FlaubertBut age is an advantage in other respects too: life experience and maturity is essential to developing the critical, questioning approach which is at the core of all university-level learning. How can anyone who has no deep experience of life, love, the pull of obligations – life’s disappointments and delights – easily empathise with a complex text in literature? Or put themselves in the place of people living long ago and appreciate their human realities? This kind of developed awareness of life is important, too, for really enjoying your studies and succeeding (and if you succeed at something, you tend to enjoy it – a virtuous circle if there ever was one!).

For reasons such as these, mature students tend to get more out of their studies. The Head of UCAS, in her speech to head teachers, encouraged teachers to make sure that 18/19 year olds were aware of their choices after A level and implied that waiting a few years before going to University was a ‘good thing’. If this advice is taken up, we may be on the verge of a change which will see the composition of Universities being weighted more heavily to mature students as we all embrace ‘life-long’ learning and appreciate its benefits.

It’s good to think that Go Higher at the University of Liverpool may be ahead of the curve on this….

1 thought on “Does age matter? By Claire Jones

  1. I can relate to this. A number of 18 year old students have said to me that they are only at uni because it was the next step. Many just feel they ‘should’ go to uni because it’s normal. My personal experience is that there is no way I could have completed go higher or started an undergraduate course at aged 18. My head just wasn’t right at aged 18

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