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Posted Sept. 11, 2022

What is university like for mature students?

What is university like for mature studentsUK universities, once the almost exclusive premise of late teens and early twenty-something students fresh out of school, are now seeing a significant rise in the number of mature students returning to university to study postgraduate degrees, some are even in their 60s and 70s!

Full of opportunity

Mature postgraduate students can face some challenges on returning to study at university, but don’t let that put you off. Yes, it will be hard, but for every challenge you will face, you will also experience a wealth of opportunities coming your way to take advantage of. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the issues you might face as a mature postgraduate student.

Keeping up with the kids

Simply put, one of the most obvious differences between mature postgraduate students and their undergraduate counterparts is age. You may not think that age makes much of a difference, but just listen to any postgraduate and they will tell you otherwise. The differing life experiences of an 18-year-old compared to a mature student are vast; inevitably this gap can have several ramifications for mature students

Highly independent

Many postgraduate degrees involve a significant proportion of self-study in comparison to undergrad degrees, a fact that can have the unwanted effect of making the student feel disconnected from the hustle and bustle of university life. Becoming a member of a university sports club or society is a great way to stop this from happening and make yourself more involved with university life,

A common perception amongst university students is that the abundance of sports clubs and societies available are exclusive to undergraduate students. Their reputation for messy, alcohol-infused socials, while alluring for some mature students, is not appealing to everyone. However, as a postgraduate student you can turn this to your advantage. You’ve ‘been there and done it’ all before, whether it was only a couple of years ago or a couple of decades, and if you take the time to research the clubs and societies available beforehand, you will find that it can be a brilliant way to connect with like-minded people. You never know – joining a sports team or society could benefit your career development by helping you learn a unique skill or develop a new interest.

Readjusting to higher education

There’s no doubt that higher education can be tough, and you need to be prepared for the demands of academic life. As a mature student, you may be concerned about how you’ll cope with these demands, especially if you’ve been out of education for a number of years and the experience of researching and writing essays is a faded memory.

If you are returning to postgraduate study after a significant break, it is a good idea to brush up on your studying skills. There are a wide range of online refresher courses available and local evening classes may also offer a relevant topic. At university your writing and research will be mostly computer based, so if you feel your technology skills could do with updating, try and get this done before returning to university.

The good news for mature students is that there is also a lot of support available once you get to university. At the beginning of the academic year most universities run workshops on topics like essay writing, referencing, researching and using the library. Believe in yourself, but when in doubt, ask for help.

In addition, some postgraduate students swear that there is a positive difference in the way that course tutors treat them, in comparison with their younger, undergraduate counterparts. One of the biggest advantages of being a postgraduate student is that your decision to return to university will most likely have been formulated over a significant number of years, rather than a rushed decision in sixth form, giving you ample time to properly consider which field of study to go into.

Juggling other commitments

A lot of mature students return to study with family commitments that they need to juggle alongside studying. This can mean that it is hard to prioritise academic work and you could be left feeling guilty about not giving everyone the attention they deserve. Choosing to study part time is one way to try and deal with this. Other postgraduates adopt clever routines to maximise their time – such as only studying when the kids go to bed, in order to strike that fine balance between study and home life.

As a mature student, you may also be trying to juggle your career alongside your new-found academic life. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to keep your boss and colleagues informed of your new postgraduate commitments, that way they’ll most likely cut you some slack when you have a looming academic deadline.

Getting support

You will need a reliable support network as you face the demands of going back to university as a matures student, so be sure to spend some quality time with your family and friends before your course commitments get too time consuming. Starting a university course is an exciting experience, always share it with your loved ones and also offload your worries and so that they don’t feel pushed aside.

If you have issues with your postgraduate course that your family doesn’t understand or cannot help with, make sure you approach your university for assistance. Use all the pastoral care available and talk to your tutor for practical advice. Also, you will of course make friends with your cohort group, over time they will become a source of valuable support and shared experiences.

Funding your postgraduate study

Coping with financial difficulty can be particularly hard for mature students, who are often faced with a range of competing commitments. If you’ve given up work to study, money can be tight, but help is available for parents in the form of childcare allowances, single parent grants and bursaries. You could also see if your children are eligible for free school meals as this will save you a lot of money and time.

If you want to apply for a UK government masters loan you must be under 60-years-old on the first day of the first academic year of your course.

Reasons to be a mature student

So, we’ve had a look at the challenges of being a mature postgraduate student, but there are plenty of reasons why it’s still a great idea.

You've got some solid plans

Now that you are a little more mature, well at least that's what students over 21 are referred to as being (or over 24 years old in the United States), you are likely to have some solid life plans. You probably have an idea about where you want to be based, you might even have people that you want to live close to or with, this simple part of life makes picking courses and careers a little easier as you can align your plans with the local industries.

You're probably more financially stable

If you've done well and been properly organised, you might have saved enough cash to cover your postgraduate tuition fees, course costs and living expenses Alternatively you might have a partner or someone who will pay for you to do your studying, or rather you share your finances with them and you both agree it's a good investment.

You can develop your career

There are plenty of part-time and distance learning options available to postgraduate students who don't have the time or the career space to stop working altogether for a year or more. Many employers might see your desire to study as an investment and might help with additional time off or even offer to pay for some or all of your study costs as an investment to your future career with them.

Your time management skills will be better

If you did your first degree fresh from school, then coming back to university as mature student will make you realise how much you have learnt. Time management skills are a major part of successful studying and if you've held down a job, time management skills will have undoubtedly played a part in your success to date.

You’ll be in good company

There are plenty of mature postgraduate students around so you will not be alone in your endeavours, in fact many universities have societies specifically for mature students. This means there will be other people to have a chat with who have similar experiences to you and since you're a little older you hopefully won't find meeting all these new people as daunting as it once was.

This table shows how much the number of mature students (or adult learners) has increased in the United States over the last 50 years – in fact the number has trebled during this time.


Number of mature students


5.7 million


9.0 million


10.9 million


11.9 million


16.8 million


17.2 million


Open up to new experiences

University is all about new experiences and learning about yourself. As a mature student, you will have a great opportunity to try new things and meet new people while you study. Most institutions have plenty going on, some associated with the course or department and other activities related to other courses that you can participate in. Some will be paid and others will be voluntary, but both will either add to your CV or be a great life experience.

Universities welcome you

Universities really welcome mature students because they want a range of people and experiences available to draw on during the postgraduate course. This means that you will be welcome to apply for most postgraduate courses no matter what your age or plans after the course. There will be societies that are aimed at postgraduate students, often for those in different circumstances, for example, those postgraduate students with children, to participate in and meet people who are in a similar situation.

You recognise opportunity

Once you've worked for a while you start to learn to recognise opportunities when they come along. On your postgraduate course there will be lots of chances to learn extra skills or gain new experiences while you study, it's just a matter of participating in them. It takes maturity to know the opportunities to take up and those that you can afford to pass on. For example, most universities have events and courses on setting up in business, so if that’s in your field of interest and you want to stretch those entrepreneurial skills make sure you see what is on offer.

You've gained a sense of perspective

Everyone fails at some point and with a bit of luck along with hard work you won't be failing anything during your postgraduate studies. But, if you do, you now know that it's not the end of the world when you don’t get the grades you were expecting. There is always something you can do, along with resitting exams and essays, so keep talking with your tutor if you don't do as well as you hope to. If you're undertaking postgraduate study for work, then find out which modules your employer needs you to complete and concentrate on these if the going gets tough. The key is to communicate with everyone so that you never get a nasty surprise.

Age of postgrad students in the UK

Here is a table showing the ages of postgraduate students in the UK in recent academic years. As you can see, there are plenty of mature students out there, so you’ll be in good company.







20 years
& under






years old






years old






30 years
& over







Why is the demand for ‘Adult Education’ on the rise?

There has been a resurgence in adult education over the last five years, and we are now in a position where more ‘mature’ students are enrolling on university courses than ever before. But just why are older people returning to university to study postgraduate degrees in such large numbers?

Combat unemployment

Many students are returning to university to carry out their masters degree due to their employment situation. High redundancy rates have given people the opportunity to further their education and improve their chances of being able to land their dream job. Competition for jobs has become extremely fierce, with hundreds of applicants going for the same jobs, and this means that often, perfectly capable people are left unemployed for long periods of time. To improve chances of getting a job, many have chosen to get back into education and begin their postgraduate studies.

Career development

The incredible rise in the number of students gaining undergraduate degrees has meant that having this qualification does not necessarily stand you out from the crowd anymore. In competitive workplaces, it is becoming essential to have a postgraduate degree in order to progress to the higher managerial roles, which means that those with ambitions to reach the top positions within their chosen field need to get their postgraduate degree in order to have a fighting chance. Although there are many funding challenges to overcome with a postgraduate degree, the rewards of having this prestigious level of qualification are clear to see, and in many cases the potential pay increases that will be offered for the higher level jobs will more than cover the course costs over time. In many business sectors, a masters degree effectively offers graduates a career fast track, negating the need to work their way up through the company over an extended period of time.

Course flexibility

Postgraduate degrees are now available in numerous different packages and this means that they are more accessible to adults who have responsibilities such as children, a mortgage, or an existing career. There are part-time courses available to those who cannot afford to give up work completely, and this makes it much more achievable for many people. There are also numerous distance learning courses developed in recent years, meaning that students can learn from wherever they are based, and they can cater their study time to fit the needs of their lifestyle. This is great news for parents who wish to study, as they can do so from home. Blended learning is also becoming increasingly popular, whereby students learn mostly online but then have a small period of time – for example one week in a semester – to come onsite and have lectures and tutorials at the university itself.

Postgraduate accommodation

amber accommodationIf you are searching for affordable student accommodation for your postgraduate studies, you can employ the services of amber. They provide affordable and hygienic student accommodations all over the United Kingdom. They also offer secure accommodation near prominent universities, from student accommodation in Glasgow to Oxford.

amber is one of many potential private accommodation options for international postgraduate students. Other private student accommodation options are available and advises you to research all your options thoroughly before making such a commitment. Postgrad Solutions accepts no responsibility for your choice of student accommodation and does not endorse or support amber.

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