University Centre Telford features as case study in Office for Students' briefing
The University of Wolverhampton’s University Centre Telford has been cited as a success case study in a recent Office for Students (OfS) Insight brief that looks at the surge of mature applicants to further and higher education sparking calls for additional reports.
The OfS, the independent regulator of higher education in England, says that universities and colleges have a “golden opportunity” to help a new generation of adult learners upskill, with strong increases in the number of mature applicants applying to study full time.
This year, UCAS data shows full-time undergraduate mature applicants from the UK rising by 24 per cent to 96,390 – an extra 18,540 students – with applications for nursing from students aged 35 and over increasing by 39 per cent.
The University Centre Telford is the first of the University of Wolverhampton’s Regional Learning Centres and is located in the heart of Telford above the public library. It was set-up in partnership with Telford and Wrekin Council and Telford Council.
In the case study in the brief ‘Improving opportunity and choice for mature students’ highlights that the centre is based on a model of collaboration using a whole community integrated approach aligned with local economic and social needs, including higher skills to drive the local economy. It plays a key role in community engagement, working to engage and nurture prospective and current learners through bespoke information, advice and guidance, tasters, lectures and participation in community and Telford-wide events.
University of Wolverhampton Vice-Chancellor, and Professor of Lifelong Learning, Geoff Layer, said: “As the University of Opportunity, we have a long history of increasing and widening participation in higher education.
“This includes providing opportunities to many mature students; most entering higher education for the first time. Our mature student population currently makes up around 40 per cent of our University’s student community.
“Our regional learning centres, including University Centre Telford, have been instrumental in our ambition to take learning into the community and providing greater opportunity to the places and people that we serve.
“It’s great for the University’s hard work in lifelong learning to be recognised in such a positive way by the OfS.”
The increase in mature students nationally follows a decade in which the total number of mature students entering higher education fell by 19 per cent, a reduction of around 47,000 students. This decline had largely been driven by a fall in those students studying part-time and for courses below a full degree.
The significant increase in demand may reflect signs of people looking to improve and change their skills and knowledge following the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes as the Government plans to introduce its Lifetime Skills Guarantee, including the Lifelong Loan Entitlement to help people access training throughout their lives.
In the OfS press release, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, Chris Millward, is quoted saying: “When I meet with students, mature students have some of the most inspirational and passionate personal stories. Some have not thrived at school and many are driven to achieve a particular goal – academically or in their careers. For them, the transformational effect of higher education comes through loud and clear.
“But too often the needs of mature students are overlooked. The transition into higher education for older learners can be particularly challenging – from difficulties with getting back into studying, juggling work and family commitments, or adjusting to life on campus.
“Encouraging data suggest we may be turning the tide in the recruitment of mature students. This presents a golden opportunity for universities and colleges to respond creatively to mature students’ needs and enable a new generation to gain the skills they need for their future careers – particularly important as we continue our recovery from the pandemic.
“We will tailor advice and guidance to the needs of mature students – both through our online resource Discover Uni and outreach through local Uni Connect partnerships. We will look to increase the focus on mature students as we agree changes to universities’ access and participation plans following the pandemic, so that the plans more fully address increased demand for local and flexible learning among adults.”
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