Returning to Learning: a Guide for Budding Mature Students

Have you considered returning to education but feel like you've left it too late? Research show you're not alone. We're here to prove it's possible and explain the benefits!

Research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Arden University shows that around one in five adults aged over 45 regret not continuing their education after finishing school.

With many adults feeling they could improve their careers through a better qualification, thousands of people actually decide to return to education. In fact, about a third of the current UK student population are classed as 'mature students'...

Is returning to education right for me?

Although the idea of studying again can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to be – in fact, it could be the best decision you ever make, take it from BA (Hons) Business student Yvelin... 

Whether you want to start a career, improve an existing one or simply turn an interest into something more - a higher education course can open up a whole range of opportunities. We know that making this decision is important, so we've answered some key questions below to help you: 

What are the benefits of going back to education?

Higher education gives you an opportunity to learn new skills, progress your career or move up pay scales. It can open up entirely new job prospects and widen your life experience and knowledge.

Many of our students have found that having a higher education qualification has opened up new opportunities that they had never considered before.

Can I fit education into my life?

We live in a busy world and being able to fit your study around your career while remaining in control of your life is now more important than ever. Online learning could help you fit study into your life more easily, as it gives you an option of studying remotely; no more commuting and inflexible timetables. Alternatively, you could try Blended Learning and experience the best of both worlds.

Can I afford it?

Enrolling in higher education is an investment in your future. When it comes to paying for your course, be realistic – but don’t let money worries put you off. There are various ways you can consider to fund your studies:

• Maintenance loans
• Grants – for example, extra support for students with a disability or who have children
• Tuition fee loans
• Corporate sponsorship from your employer

Can I meet the entry requirements?

You can easily find out what courses you will be eligible for with Arden University by browsing our courses and their entry requirements.

When applying for a course, you will need to provide evidence of your ability and any qualifications or work experience. Professional work experience and qualifications gained a number of years ago will still be taken into account.

Where can I study?

Deciding on where to study is probably the most important choice you will make, so make sure you do your research. Attend open days, read the experiences of other students, search reviews, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and chat to admissions teams.

Whether you choose to study from home, face-to-face or decide to mix the two with blended learning, ask about the support you’ll receive while you study. Think about what is most important to you; academic support to help understand learning materials, student support to ensure you know what is expected of you, or pastoral support to help you get through the tough times?

At Arden University, we ensure you can access all of these when you need them. Excellent support can make all the difference once you are studying, particularly if you are also working full time as many ‘later learners’ do.

How can I fund a course?

Funding can be a cause of concern for mature students – many often believe that fewer options are available to them. This isn't the case.

If you are a UK or EU resident living in England or Wales, you may be eligible for a tuition fee loan. This option covers both Distance Learning and physical universities.

If you are employed, you may be surprised to discover your employer may offer to help support your development, too.

If you’re worried about costs, don’t forget that Distance Learning tuition fees are often less costly than those for traditional, face-to-face courses. 

You can find out more about finance options and fees here.

How do I choose a subject?

“Doing the law degree has opened a lot of new job opportunities and made me more marketable within the job sector.” Miriam Aziz - LLB

You may have a really clear idea already of what you’d like to study.

On the other hand, if you’re still unsure, make sure you ask yourself relevant questions

• If the subject is related to a career idea, is it going to help you progress in your chosen path?

• For subjects that are new to you, do you know enough about what would be involved?

• Will you still be interested in that subject in three or four years’ time? You need to choose a subject you’ll continue to feel motivated about.

It’s also important to look into what type of assessments you’ll be given, as well as what the entry requirements are for the course you’re interested in.

Been there, done that

If you’re still not sure about returning to study, the best thing to do is research our website, online forums and portals to hear from other people who’ve made the decision to enter (or re-enter) higher education later in their lives. To kick things off, here’s Arden student Martin’s story:


Martin Scahill Business Computing Student

Martin ScahillBSc (Hons) Business - Computing (Top-Up)

‘I felt that my digital skills needed to be improved when I was Head of IT at Derby County Football Club so I started to look at my options. Arden University offered a two-year part-time top-up degree that allowed me to go at my own pace. I have two kids, a partner and a busy household so the flexibility was really great through distance online learning.

‘My business computing top-up course ticked all the boxes, and allowed me to get new skills. It was a really, really good course. I was able to apply a lot of the skills and knowledge that I had gained from the course in my day-to-day job at Derby County, particularly around the web and IT security elements.

‘I felt after 8 years at Derby County that it was right for me to find a new challenge. I had done an HNC (Higher National Certificate) about 20 years ago, but never finished my degree. Fortunately, it had never held me back in my career as I was always able to perform well at interviews. However, I was increasingly finding that I had reached a glass ceiling in terms of moving into a senior management role.

‘It had been mentioned to me that I didn’t have a degree. But I didn’t want to go back to the start, as I had around 20 years of experience in the IT world. I thought that would put me at the same level as an undergraduate, and I was hoping there was a way of shortening the course.

‘My top-up course with Arden University was a useful mix, covering IT systems which support SMEs right through to large enterprise including web design, IT management and security as well as exploring what the business world’s computing needs are. All the main ingredients were there to be an effective senior IT leader.

‘It gave me confidence and skills to go for senior jobs that I wouldn’t have been confident to go for previously. In fact, it was a massive tick in the box when it came to applying for jobs that required a degree. I didn’t need to worry about it. I eventually went on to get a job with Babcock, and was able to complete my top-up degree there. I have since been promoted several times since. When my kids get older, I would certainly recommend further studies post school. There’s nothing in the rule book that says you have to go to university straight from school.’


OK, I'm feeling inspired!

If you're starting to feel like higher education makes sense at all stages of life, you're ready to start browsing our courses. Remember that if you find one you like and want some more information, you can make an enquiry through the form on our website, or by emailing: