Things to consider as a mature learner

How do older qualifications and/or work experience factor into applications?

If you've been out of education for a while, the typical entry requirements listed for university courses may seem irrelevant or unattainable for you.

In addition to exam results from high school or college courses, other academic qualifications are taken into account. For example, you may have studied a short course at college or with the Open University.

Any qualifications more than five years old will be considered alongside more recent evidence that demonstrates your ability to study at degree level.

Relevant skills and experience from the workplace, professional qualifications and any additional certifications all contribute. The personal statement portion of your application is the perfect place to outline what you've learned and how your background has prepared you for university life.

Universities want to make sure you're well-equipped to succeed. It's always worth talking to the Admissions Team at your prospective university, as they can give you an idea of where you stand.

Additionally, Access to Higher Education (HE) courses are specifically designed to bring adults considering higher education up to speed with academic learning. These programmes typically take one to two years to complete and are available for a wide variety of subjects. Details can be found at Access to HE or on the Scottish Wider Access Programme website.

Can I get any financial help to attend university?

As a mature student, you will be entitled to the same loans and support as any other undergraduate applicant, provided you are studying at university for the first time.

Tuition fee loans to cover the cost of your education are provided in the UK by your local government and income-assessed maintenance loans are available to help towards travel, accommodation and living costs. More details on what is available to you can be found on our Fees and finance pages.

If you are an international applicant, you may be eligible for some level of student finance, depending on your fee status and where you plan to study.

Most universities will also offer scholarship programmes or bursaries that you may apply for, assuming you meet certain criteria.

If I hadn’t returned to university, I would probably still be in a job that I didn’t want as a career. No matter if you haven’t been in education for a long time, don’t let that put you off.


ENU Graduate, BN Adult Nursing

Will I still be able to work and keep up with other commitments alongside my studies?

Whether it be work, family or other demands on your time, the thought of adding full-time education into the mix might be a bit daunting.

To give you an idea of the balance you might need to strike, a typical undergraduate student at Edinburgh Napier University will spend between six and 10 hours on campus per week. Additional time for self-study and coursework also factors in and varies depending on their course.

Many students of all ages continue working part-time while they complete their degree. However, certain subjects require a significant amount of work experience and on-the-job learning, which can rule out other commitments. Nursing students, for example, spend part of each year on placement, working shifts in hospitals and in the community. 

Any choice you make will depend on your individual circumstances and means. Make sure you research all the support available to you and talk to students who have been through it before. Forums like The Student Room and UniBuddy can connect you with people who have made it work.

How different will I find university life from a 'typical' student?

The fact of the matter is that the 'student experience' is different for everyone, regardless of age or background.

If the thought of potentially being the oldest student on your course is a big concern, you probably won't be as out of place as you think. Around a third of undergraduate students in the UK are categorised as 'mature' learners and the same is true at Edinburgh Napier University.

Not to mention, the prospect of having more experience than your peers certainly shouldn’t put you off – it might even give you an edge!

Just like everybody else, you can find a place for yourself at university and carve out the little niche where you fit in. It's a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded people and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Find out more about life at Edinburgh Napier University.

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