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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 an undergraduate degree course.

In 2019/20 there were around 254,000 mature undergraduate entrants at UK universities; 37% of all undergraduate entrants. There were 202,000 mature postgraduate entrants in 2019/20; 50% of postgraduate entrants.

Mature students are much more likely to study part-time at all levels. In 2019/20 28% of undergraduate mature students studied part time compared to 3% of young undergraduates. Mature students are also much more likely to study ‘other undergraduate’ courses (below first degree level, a large majority of these courses are part-time). In 2019/20 79% 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 25,000 (14%) to 202,0000 in 2019/20 The total number of mature undergraduate entrants fell from more than 400,000 in 2010/11 to fewer than 240,000 in 2017/18 – a drop of 40%. Numbers have since increased to 254,000 in 219/20.

 

Mature entrants to full-time undergraduate courses have increased to new record levels in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Mature applicants for such courses starting in 2021 are up by 24%. It is part-time study particularly where numbers have fallen.

In 2020 24% of home entrants to full-time undergraduate courses were mature students (aged 21 or older). New female students were more like to be mature (26% compared to 20% for males). Overall 23% of white students were mature as were 23% of all combined minority ethnic groups. In 2020 there were relatively high proportions of mature entrants among Black students (38%), particularly Black women (41%), and relatively low proportions among Asian students (15%) and White men (19%) and men from mixed backgrounds (17%).

In 2020 16% of mature full-time undergraduate entrants had a self-reported disability. This was higher than the 11% 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 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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