Funding for mature students in Higher Education

A recent report, Never Too Late to Learn: Mature Students in Higher Education, concludes that removing state support for access to higher education courses will stop thousands of adults from attending university-level courses as mature students.

The report comes after an 11% decline in the number of university applications by prospective mature students for 2012-13, compared with a fall of 1.6% for applications from sixth formers and says that, “The prospect of either paying higher level 3 course fees [for A Levels and equivalent courses] upfront or taking on one or two years of further education fee loans as a precondition for entry … is likely to act as a major disincentive.”

This is an issue of great concern to the Workers’ Educational Association which was established in 1903 as ‘An Association to promote the Higher Education of Working Men’, specifically to widen access to university-level education for working class people. Our name changed to its current format in 1905 in response to demands for equality for women – 13 years before some women over 30 years old became eligible to vote.

From our earliest days, the WEA has been committed to equal opportunities and has encouraged access to stimulating and educationally challenging courses for people who might be excluded. Our founders, “looked to deepen working class involvement in education beyond the ‘hard veneer’ of elementary education”.  Over subsequent years, access to higher education became more widely available to mature students of limited financial means and many WEA students have flourished as they continued their academic careers. Indeed, the twentieth century saw several future politicians and even cabinet ministers honing their learning with the WEA as students, volunteers and tutors.

We are very concerned to note the regression to a situation where factors of finance and social class will close avenues for educational development and restrict social mobility, returning us to the limitations that prevailed in 1903. As well as stifling individual adult students’ ambitions and aspirations, society will lose the potential benefits of developing intelligent individuals who can broaden the range of life experience in our graduate population and public discourse.

The report is available online at:

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

One Response to Funding for mature students in Higher Education

  1. gogwit says:

    Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    With employment agencies now talking about a need for those 50 and over to reskill for another possible 20 years of work the removal of barriers to life long learning and support for mature students ought to be more forthcoming – both from employers and from government.

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