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There is no official definition of a ‘mature student’ – this term is usually used to refer to older students, particularly students over 21 at the start of a degree course.

 In 2018/19 there were 237,000 mature undergraduate entrants at UK universities; 36% of all undergraduate entrants. There were 189,000 mature postgraduate entrants in 2018/19; 53% of postgraduate entrants.

Mature students are much more likely to study part-time at all levels. In 2018/19 47% of undergraduate mature students studied part time compared to 4% of young undergraduates Mature students are also much more likely to study ‘other undergraduate’ courses (below first degree level and mainly part-time). In 2018/19 80% of students starting other undergraduate courses were aged 21 or older.

The number of mature postgraduate entrants fell from just over 200,000 in 2010/11 to below 180,000 in 2014/15. It has since increased by almost 18,000 (10%) to 194,0000 in 2018/19 The total number of mature undergraduate entrants fell from more than 400,000 in 2010/11 to fewer than 240,000 in 2017/18.

In 2019 23% of home entrants to full-time undergraduate courses were mature students (aged 21 or older). New female students were slightly more like to be mature (25% v 20% for males). Overall 21% of white students were mature compared to 25% of all minority ethnic groups , in 2019 there relatively high proportions of mature entrants among Black students (41%), particularly Black women (44%), and relatively low proportions among Asian students (15%) and White males and males from mixed backgrounds (both 18%).

In 2019 16% of mature full-time undergraduate entrants had a self-reported disability. This was higher than the 12% of young entrants

Students aged 25+ were more likely to be studying subjects allied to medicine or education. They made up 39% of students on these courses compared to 20% of the overall student population.

Mature undergraduate students are more likely to drop out of their course. In 2016-17 15.2% did not continue in higher education after their first year compared to 7.8% of young students. Mature students are less likely to graduate with a first or upper second class degree. 67% did so in 2016-17 compared with 79% of young students. Mature graduates are more likely to be in work in a highly skilled employment. In 2015-16 77% were in such jobs compared with 73% of young graduates.

Mature students are funded at the same level as other full-time undergraduate students despite many mature students having extra financial responsibilities.

Mature students enter higher education with a wider variety of qualifications than younger students and providers are often more flexible when it comes to admissions criteria. These students often enter higher education for many different reasons and not solely for career purposes.


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