Adult learners

Help from universities and colleges

Universities and colleges support adult learners in many different ways: 

1. Flexible timetabling

It can be hard to fit studies around other commitments such as care or paid work. The following flexible options might be available to help you with this:

  • evening classes
  • intensive weekend modules
  • block learning
  • online and distance learning
  • delivering provision in the community.

Summer schools, flexible start dates and credit-accruing work placements may also be available to help you study more flexibly.

Universities and colleges should have this information available on their websites or you could contact them to find out more.

2. Information, advice and guidance

It can be difficult to get back into education at a later age when you might have other commitments or have been out of education for a long time. It can be common for adult learners to feel less confident than younger students who may have come to higher education through more conventional routes.

Universities and colleges provide a lot of outreach support. This may include:

  • mock interviews
  • information about financial support
  • information on different routes into higher education, including degree level apprenticeships

3. Access courses and foundation years

If you're returning to education or have few previous qualification, some of the following options could help to prepare you:

  • An Access to Higher Education Diploma is usually delivered at further education colleges and can help you prepare for higher education by providing foundation knowledge and skills to help you prepare for university-level study.
  • Foundation year (sometimes referred to as ‘year zero’) courses can give you the opportunity to gain a broad knowledge of your chosen subject and if you complete the year successfully, you may gain access onto a full degree course.
  • short or part-time higher education taster accredited courses.

Your chosen university or college will be able to tell you if these options are available.

4. Financial support

It can be difficult to know what financial support you are entitled to as an adult learner, particularly when thinking about part-time study. You can find out more about tuition fee loans on the Discover Uni and Department for Education websites.

Some universities may also provide additional support or bursaries. They should have this information available through their websites.

There are special bursaries available for students studying teacher training, social work and nursing. You can find out more information on these through links on the Discover Uni website. The Discover Uni course search will also provide links to financial support information offered by universities and colleges.

Published 27 May 2021

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