Adult education: the barriers to entry and how to overcome them

Photograph of two UCEN Manchester students sat down in a classroom looking at a laptop.

Going back into education as an adult can be a daunting experience and a source of anxiety and confusion. We appreciate there are barriers for adults entering education, but we’re here to help you overcome them.

Here are five challenges mature students face when returning to education, and what you (and we) can do to help you tackle them.

“I’m too busy… now is not the time”

Most education providers will accommodate your needs and understand you’re an adult learner and therefore, have extra responsibilities.

We’ll work with you to create a flexible timetable, often condensing it to around two or three days per week.  Some courses offer full-time, part-time and distance learning options to make things as easy as possible for you.

If you’re not distance learning, there will be times when you need to be on campus.  Keeping a monthly schedule of your deadlines, exams and study days will allow you to plan ahead and manage your course commitments around your responsibilities - we’ve previously looked at what it’s like to study as an adult.

“Technology is too advanced these days...I can’t keep up!”

Unless you’re doing a technology degree, most undergraduate level courses only require a basic level of technological understanding.  For example, how to use digital tools such as Microsoft Word, email and the internet. 

If you need a specialist understanding of other types of software, you’re typically taught how to use these tools as part of your course.

You can also practice your skills and develop new ones with our on-demand Study Skills offer, which are open to anyone.

Don’t forget, institutions are there to help you with your education.  If you’re struggling to access any digital tool, course leaders and support services will work with you to address the challenges you’re facing.

“I don’t think it benefits people my age”

There are many reasons why you may wish to return to education and measuring the benefits is something that’s personal to you.

For example, education can be an essential way to gain the necessary qualifications and skills that make you more desirable to employers, or improve your earning potential.  Our Access to Higher Education courses are an excellent way to gain the qualification you need to study at degree level. 

Returning to education can be a very rewarding process for those who didn’t gain the necessary qualifications when they were younger.

The opportunity to acquire new skills is also a valid reason.  Stimulating your brain with knowledge is a great way to improve your memory.  Ultimately, if learning makes you happy, then returning to education is definitely worth it.

As our lecturer Wayne Jackson once said “I don’t necessarily see what I do as ‘adult learning’, but simply learning”.

“Education is expensive... I can’t afford that”

If you’re studying at degree level, generally, you can take out a student loan to pay your course fees.  You will only start repaying this loan when you earn over a set amount, and even then the threshold for repayment is 9% of the amount you earn above £1,682 a month or £388 a week (before tax and other deductions).  Find out more about when you’d start repaying through the Government’s website.

“I won’t fit in as an adult learner”

It is perfectly normal to have anxiety about being an adult learner, but rest assured, you will not be the only one.  37% of all undergraduate students were mature students in 2019, and 50% of postgraduate students – we’re specialists at teaching mature students who make up nearly half of our student body.

Some institutions offer adult courses or have a mature student society, so you can learn alongside, and socialise with, people of a similar age.  Alternatively, you can join a society based around your interests, like chess or football, this way, you’re bonding with fellow students over a shared passion rather than a shared age.

Find out more information about the adult courses available at UCEN Manchester and apply now.

Alternatively, get in touch via 03333 222 444 or contact us online.