The Government must do more for mature students according to a new report from the university think-tank million+ and the National Union of Students. Mature students (who start degree courses aged 21 or over) now make up almost a third of the UK's undergraduate population, up from 10 per cent in 1980.
Never Too Late To Learn: Mature Students in Higher Education, which will be launched tomorrow (Wednesday), calls on the Government to celebrate the achievements of the 430,000 mature students who study at universities and colleges each year but warns that future opportunities will be reduced if Ministers focus policies and social mobility strategies on younger students.
million+ and NUS call on policymakers, universities, colleges and students' union officers to work together to improve opportunities for mature students but they also say that Ministers should reconsider funding policies if the significant fall in applications from mature students in England for degree courses in 2012/13 continues. They point, in particular, to the potential "double whammy" facing mature students of limits on student numbers which restrict places at local universities combined with a funding regime which favours younger students with high A-level grades.
Professor Patrick McGhee, Chair of million+, said: "In the week that the Deputy Prime Minister is revisiting the Government’s social mobility strategy this report is a timely reminder that social mobility is not just about young people. A third of undergraduates enter university for the first time when they are over 21 and 57% of these students study full-time. This is something we should be proud of - it's a unique strength of our system - but it also means that we have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote opportunities for people to study whatever their age, background and family, financial or work commitments."
Liam Burns, NUS President: "Universities are working hard to explain the complexities of the new funding system in England, but mature students report financial hardship is one of the key challenges they face. We can’t ignore the significant drop in full-time applications from mature applicants for the coming year, and we need to understand the reasons for this and prompt a change of direction in the Government's approach."
Download Never to Late to Learn: Mature Students in Higher Education to find out more about the mature student experience in the UK