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Too old to Learn?

Updated: Feb 10

Introduction: Back to Learning.

In 2000, at the age of 28, I took a pivotal step back into education after an 8-year hiatus. This decision, while more common today, was a considerable one at the time. My goal was clear: to earn a degree while balancing other life commitments. The opportunity presented itself when Queens offered a part-time degree course over five years. Embracing my status as a mature student, I enrolled, ready for this new educational journey.

The first day of class in October 2000 offered a delightful surprise. Contrary to my expectation of being the oldest in the class, I met Henry, a 65-year-old retiree. Henry's presence was inspiring. His reason for joining the course at his age was compelling: a lifelong passion for history, sidelined by a career in his family's tailoring business. Now, with the business successfully sold, he seized the opportunity to fulfill his dream of university education.

Over the next two years, Henry's stories, knowledge, and passion for learning greatly enriched my educational experience. Even after our paths diverged academically, the news of his graduation, ahead of me, was a testament to the adage that it's never too late to achieve one's goals.

Today, I view myself not just as a mature student but as a lifelong learner. Every day is an opportunity for growth and discovery. To those aspiring to learn, I say: research, plan, and embark on your learning journey. The possibilities are boundless.

Mature Women Learner. Donnan Coaching Services.
Mature Women Learner.

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

There has been a notable increase in the number of mature learners enrolling in universities in the UK, particularly in full-time undergraduate programs. According to data from UCAS, the number of mature applicants (those aged 21 and over) for full-time undergraduate courses rose by 24% to 96,390, an increase of 18,540 students. This surge is especially significant in fields like nursing, where applications from students aged 35 and over increased by 39%.

Continuous learning is crucial for both personal and professional growth. Lifelong learning enhances cognitive function, boosts confidence, and provides fulfillment. It's also linked to improved mental health and wellbeing, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

In the workforce, continuous learning is key to advancement. Employers value adaptability and the ability to learn. Engaging in education, whether through courses, conferences, or advanced degrees, can significantly enhance your career prospects.

The increase in mature learners presents both opportunities and challenges for universities. Mature students often come from more disadvantaged backgrounds and typically have additional responsibilities like work and caring commitments. Universities and colleges are now faced with the task of ensuring that these students are adequately supported, and the momentum for mature student participation is maintained post-pandemic.

This development comes as the UK government introduces its Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Lifelong Loan Entitlement initiatives, aimed at helping people access training throughout their lives. The shift to more flexible and remote learning models during the pandemic has also played a role in accommodating the needs of mature students with other responsibilities.

Mature Stdent learning Online. Donnan Coaching Services.
Mature Student Learing Onlne

UK Research and Statistics

Recent UK research underscores the value of continuous learning, especially for older adults. Reports like "Skills and Lifelong Learning: The Benefits of Adult Learning" and "Future of Ageing: Lifelong Learning" from the UK Government Office for Science highlight the role of adult learning in health, societal wellbeing, and adapting to technological changes.

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Office for Students provide insights into the demographics of mature students in the UK, showing their participation and success rates in higher education.

For detailed statistics, visit [Higher Education Student Statistics UK: 2020 to 2021]( and the [Office for Students](

Mature male Student Graduating. Donnan Coaching Services.
Mature male Student Graduating

Health Benefits of Learning

Learning offers various health benefits. It supports cognitive health, enhancing memory and problem-solving skills. Mental health benefits include reduced risk of depression and anxiety, and increased self-esteem. Socially, learning can reduce loneliness and isolation. Indirectly, it can influence physical health through knowledge of nutrition and exercise. Harvard Health Blog provides further insights into these benefits at Harvard Health Blog -

Discussion Questions

- Have you ever felt that age is a barrier to your education or career advancement? Share your experience.

- What skills or knowledge are you eager to learn or update in today's rapidly changing world?

Overall, the rise in mature student enrollments signifies a positive move towards more inclusive and diverse learning environments in UK higher education, catering to the needs and aspirations of learners at all stages of life.

Embracing learning at any age can lead to a fulfilling and enriched life, both personally and professionally. Whether for career advancement or personal satisfaction, the journey of learning is a never-ending and rewarding one.


Regards, Paula

Careers and Personal Growth Coach

⭐Whether you're just starting out, or you're looking for a change, I can assist you in planning your next move. ⭐If you need to chat about your career dilemma?

📌 Contact me at

Asian man learning online. Donnan Coaching Services.
Asian Student Learning Online.

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