It is easy to look back and think about what might have been in all parts of our lives. One opportunity that may present itself now, which may have been impossible when younger, is education. You might have seen younger members of the family do well in subjects you didn’t know existed when you were younger and at work younger colleagues may shine with up-to-date IT skills or by using social media.

Increasingly older people are returning to study on a part time basis. Sadly increased tuition fees have seen full time mature student numbers fall in universities.

Do I want to keep studying?

Some workers in their 50s do not want to keep going on courses especially when they have previously put a lot into qualifications that are now no longer seen as valid. Studying can be stressful and is often hard work. Support is available and if you have a Union Learning Rep in your workplace, have a chat with them.

Employers may either insist on workers keeping skills up-to-date but occasionally older workers may feel excluded from training. You may need to make judgements on a regular basis about whether it’s worth signing up for courses or making a case for training. If a course is necessary for work your employer may pay for all or part of it. Check out your rights on:

Will I get funding?

As the State Pension Age increases, you may find yourself working longer than you planned. The current government believe they are helping older workers by lifting the age limit for tuition fees as if encouraging people to take on big loans later in life is a particular favour. Indeed in February David Willets the Higher Education Minister urged workers older than 60 to give higher education serious consideration. He told the Daily Telegraph, “There is certainly a pressure for continuing to get retrained and upskilled.”

If you do decide to study again and are funding yourself, do look for bursaries and scholarships; they are not all for young students. If you have any special requirements, be upfront and ask about support.

I found studying with the Open University as a mature student a rewarding experience not financially but for my personal development. I was fortunate. Whatever you decide to do it will take more time than you think, you will need support from family and friends. Hopefully it will be worth it.

How do I start?

Going back to the classroom can be a daunting prospect. It might be an idea to try an evening class or a short online course. Some organisations can be very helpful to people returning to study especially trade unions with ‘learning at work’ initiatives and unionlearn programmes. Unions have long encouraged working people to broaden their skills by returning to education. Trade union backed Ruskin College Oxford, the Open University and Birkbeck college London all have flexible courses that enable part time higher education. The Workers Education Association goes into communities all over the UK to support adult education.

Local Further Education colleges may also offer courses up to and including degree equivalent for adults returning to study.

Posted on June 17th, 2013 by Chris Haswell filed under: Blog