Over 30 per cent of students at the University of Plymouth were over the age of 21 when they started their degree.
Mature students represent a highly diverse group with a broad age range and any generalisations about mature students should be approached with caution.
Simply being over 21 can mean some younger mature students have a lot in common with their standard age peers, while older mature students may have substantial life and work experiences.
It is often the case that the decision to return to learning means mature students are highly motivated and committed to their university studies.
Mature students may also have more complicated lives, including caring and financial responsibilities, compared to their younger colleagues. PedRIO researchers held a series of focus groups with mature students at Plymouth who identified the following advantages and disadvantages of returning to study as a mature student.
Key disadvantages of being a mature student included a perceived lack of academic preparedness due to gaps in study or non-traditional routes (e.g. Access courses), as well as a lack of social integration as a consequence of feeling different from their peers. Younger mature students were most concerned about the gap in their academic knowledge compare to their younger peers. Older mature students were more concerned about relating socially to other students.
Key advantages of being a mature student were the practical skills developed through life experience such as independent living and budgeting, as well as personal traits such as confidence in giving presentations, time and project management skills and an enhanced dedication to getting the most out of their university experience.