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Worried you’ve missed the boat when it comes to studying for a postgraduate course? We explain why it’s never too late to further your education.
More and more students are choosing to continue their studies to postgraduate level these days – in fact the number of people holding postgraduate degrees has tripled in the last 15 years. With loans available to support these studies, that number is likely to grow.
You might be worried you’ve missed your chance, but we’re having none of it – whether you’re 25 or 105, we say it’s never too late to start on your postgraduate journey.
For a start, you won’t be alone: according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), 59% of students enrolling on postgraduate courses in the UK are 25 or over. In fact many defer postgraduate study in order to save money to pay for their course themselves and avoid incurring further student debt.
With life experience and a few years in the workplace under your belt, you’re likely be more certain about what you want from a course – whether it’s a promotion, career change or the chance to finally study something that’s always fascinated you, you’re going to have a much clearer idea of your goals.
This means you’ll be highly selective and only enrol on a course that you know is definitely right for you. With a degree of certainty about your future, you’ll be focussed, motivated and definitely enjoying your course more. Win win!
If you’ve started to feel stuck in a rut at work or in your social life, finally enrolling on that master’s degree you’ve secretly always wanted to do could provide a big confidence boost and a welcome break from a high pressured career, allowing you to return to work re-focussed and refreshed. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll be closer in age to the teaching staff, meaning better communication and better relationships with your tutors.
Leaving it later to start a postgraduate course needn’t limit your options. If you’re happy to quit your job or take a sabbatical, there’s nothing stopping you going back to uni full time. If you want to live on campus, lots of universities reserve a set number of rooms for mature students, and some even offer campus accommodation for couples and even families. And if you need to stay closer to home, why not pick a course at an institution you can commute to?
Not everyone can, or wants to leave their job to dive back into full time study, and that’s fine too, as you can study a part time course that fits around your existing commitments. Some universities and colleges, such as Birkbeck, part of the University of London, even offer part time courses where all classes are held in the evenings, allowing for minimum disruption to your daytime routine.
Or, for fully flexible further study, why not enrol on an online degree, or study for your postgrad qualification through distance learning, with an institution like the Open University? This way, you’ll be able to work towards your degree completely at your own pace, an option that’s proving popular with more mature students – the OU recently reported a rise in the number of new students over the age of 45, with biggest increase in numbers in the over 65 age bracket. Yes, when we said you were never too old, we really meant it.
Still not convinced? We spoke to two students who studied postgraduate degrees a little bit later in life. Sam Kremzer started a master’s degree in spatial planning at the age of 28, and Kate Wade enrolled on a creative writing course at Brunel University when she was 52.
Why did you decide to do a postgrad later?
Sam: To further my career as a planning officer and get to senior level, I needed to have a relevant master’s degree. I was lucky because my employer was willing to pay my fees and travel, plus give me one day off a week to attend university (I studied part time), although that did mean there was an obligation to stay with my employer for two years after gaining my qualification.
Kate: I took the course because all my children were growing up and beginning to fly the nest. I had always loved writing and thought I would finally be able to give the course the time it deserved.
What are the benefits of being a mature student?
Sam: For me there were lots! I started my course feeling more knowledgeable because I already had experience in the area I was studying from my job, plus I had a lot of support from my employer and a lot of my colleagues, as they had all been through the same thing. There was also the financial benefit and I continued to earn a good wage throughout.
Outside of the work aspect, one benefit was I didn’t feel the need to over indulge in the student lifestyle and spend too much time at bars and clubs at the expense of doing my course work, which I might have done if I had gone straight from undergraduate degree to master’s. I was already settled about 30 miles from where I studied, and because my course had a large number of mature students, I didn’t feel left out. Finally I was more focused on why I was doing my course, and I knew it wasn’t just a way of putting off getting a real job.
Kate: As a mature student, I found that I was more appreciative of the course. I did all the homework and enjoyed doing it. It opened my mind to new ideas and broadened my horizons. I felt I was opening up rather than closing down. After the course I felt so confident I even went on to take up rowing!
Sam: Juggling work and study meant I really didn’t have weekends off anymore, and doing a dissertation at the same time as a four day work week was really difficult!
It was also hard at first to remember how to write an essay, as it had been such a long time since I’d had to do it. My first degree was all coursework based, so I hadn’t written an essay since sixth form! However, my degree included a one year access course prior to the actual master’s, which helped me to ease back into studying.
Kate: I don't think there were any downsides at all! I would do it all again.
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