Taking the plunge and embarking on a university course as a mature student can be a daunting prospect – particularly for those already negotiating the stresses and strains of Army life. Luckily, help is at hand to make restarting your learning journey as easy as possible. We asked the University of Sheffield to explain why further education can be an achievable goal for those from Service families…

How does the university cater for mature students or those who can’t commit to full-time education?
The University of Sheffield offers a range of 23 degrees with a foundation year, designed specifically for mature students without the traditional entry qualifications usually required to enter higher education.

In 2016 we welcomed more than 100 new students on to these courses, the vast majority aged 21 or over and coming to university later in life than a ‘typical’ undergraduate student.

Many of our students have working, caring and family commitments which all need to be managed alongside their studies. In the Department for Lifelong Learning, we have many years of working with such adult learners and offer comprehensive support for students coming back to education. Our students find the support network of staff and fellow students an invaluable support as they integrate into university life.

For those students who can’t commit to full-time study, a number of our degrees with a foundation year are available on a part-time basis. Part-time students study alongside full-time counterparts and enjoy the same facilities and services, but can take their studies at a slower pace. This gives them even more time to dedicate to their commitments outside of their studies.

Is there any additional support available to those who have been out of learning for a long time?
All of our foundation modules are designed for mature learners who have been out of education and include modules in academic literacy and communication skills, which focus on the skills required of successful degree-level students.

The University also offers a study skills programme with modules covering presentation skills, essay writing and exam preparation. Students are able to access this support at any point via workshops, one-to-one support and online resources.

What advice do you have for anyone who thinks they’re too old for university?
Studying a degree with a foundation year at the University of Sheffield allows mature students to take advantage of the opportunities that studying for a degree brings and to work alongside other mature students and staff who have many years’ experience working with adult learners.

Following the foundation year, our students begin their degree course as confident, independent learners who bring a range of experiences and insights that enrich the learning experience for all students on their course.

We have a thriving mature student population, including a Students’ Union mature student committee which arranges activities and events across the year. Our students tell us that their age becomes irrelevant as they integrate with others at the University, as every student brings their own unique experiences to share.

Beyond academic attainments, how can university benefit mature students?
Our students study with us for a wide range of reasons, all of which are personal to their own circumstances. Many students are studying a subject they have held a lifelong passion for, many are studying for a degree to allow them to embark on new careers, and some simply wish to do something for themselves after supporting and caring for others for many years.

Our aim is to support every student to achieve their best on their chosen path. Being at university also allows mature students to take advantage of all the other opportunities that being a student presents, whether that is joining a society or committee, work or study abroad placements, or simply meeting students of all ages and from all backgrounds.

To find out more about the opportunities available for mature students at the University of Sheffield, visit sheffield.ac.uk/dll

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