Mature Students: Choosing A Degree

Regardless of your reasons for going into higher education, it is important you choose the right course and institution for you, and get the most out of your undergraduate experience.

Whatever your personal motivation for entering higher education, it’s important you explore carefully all the options you are considering, and choose a subject area in which you believe you will do well in, have enthusiasm for and will enjoy. 

Factors anyone considering taking an undergraduate degree programme need to consider include degree course flexibility, assessment methods, quality of teaching and research, and entry requirements, however for mature students, there are lots of other things you may need to consider.

1. Do you really need a degree?

Taking on higher level study at a university is a big step, especially if you've been used to working (and receiving a regular pay) for a few years. Depending on how and what subject you study, and the reasons behind deciding to study, it could mean a total change in the way you are used to living; your daily routines could change, finances could need adjusting to manage on a potentially reduced budget and you could be taking on significant debt, so it's important to consider whether it's the right step for you.

It might be that you need a degree to progress professionally, or for a change of career, in which case, it could be a sensible option to increase your job satisfaction, and renumeration potential. Having a clear idea of the worth of your degree is essential if you are studying to increase your career prospects. In these cirucmstances, if a degree would not increase your future prospects, it might be that you can consider other less costly and time-consuming avenues, such as vocational training or apprenticeship schemes.

On the other hand, if you are deciding to study to explore a subject of interest, future use in a career might not be so important but again, it still is worth considering the value of your chosen degree and whether they may be other avenues to study, such as a modular online distance learning programmes, such as The Open University.

2. How do you want to study?

Following on from choosing whether degree level study is right for you, is choosing what method of study that might be an option for you, and whether your chosen subject and university can offer that method of study.

As a mature student, you might wish to study full time, but studying part time or even by distancing learning can also be viable options, depending on what you want/need to study.

Studying full time is a great way to live the traditional student experience; you get to immerse youself in student life on campus, and this means that it's easier to give your studies your full dedication and time. For some subjects, full time study can be the only method of study due to the nature of assessment. 

Studying full time also means you get to complete your studies quicker, and this can be useful if you are using your degree to springboard into a new career.

But if time is less of an issue, then studying part-time can be a great alternative, especially if you want or need to keep up any current employment, or have other commitments such as caring for others.

Finally, distance learning can provide an option if neither full or part time study suit your circumstances well. With this option, you can maintain any employment or caring commitments you need to, and fit your studies around your schedule. The modular nature of many distance learning programmes mean that you can choose as much, or as little, study as fits your circumstances, as long as you finish the full programme within a set amount of time.

3. Do you meet the entry requirements?

As a mature student, it's likely the entry requirments you would need to meet would be different to those of a school leaver. This might mean that your previous study or work expereince is accepted rather than having to have a set of A Levels, however, this is not always the case for all programmes, especially for degree programmes in medical and scientific subjects.

As a rule of thumb, it's always best to check with prospective universites whether you would meet their requirements before applying, and be aware that the requirements may vary between universities, even for the same subject and programme.


You can find further advice in our undergraduate choosing a degree section.