Every year, thousands of mature students go to university or college. It's a great chance to develop new skills and career options – at any age.

Izzy Dunbar

'Learning is a continuous journey' – Izzy's life has been transformed by education.

Who are mature students?

The term ‘mature student’ is usually used when referring to anyone going to university or college after a period of time out of full-time education. 

Typically, this will mean students who are over 21 years of age at the beginning of their undergraduate studies, or over 25 years of age at the beginning of their postgraduate studies. Over half of mature students are aged between 21 and 24, and around 40% are over 30. Mature students often balance their studies alongside work or caring responsibilities. 

Some mature students may have few or no previous qualifications, and may be taking Access to HE diploma courses, or enrolling on their first degree course based on their work or life experiences.  Others may be returning to do a postgraduate qualification or a degree in a new subject area as part of their career progression.

Alan Markland

'Life has become more satisfying' – Alan overcame tough personal problems and found his voice at university.

Studying as a mature student

There are many ways you can experience higher education. Around a third of undergraduates are mature students – of all ages and backgrounds.

  • Explore a subject you find interesting or rewarding.
  • Progress your career by increasing your skills and knowledge.
  • Change direction to take on a new challenge.

Najib Rasooli

'Education was the only way to survive' – Najib fled Afghanistan at 15; higher education gave him strength and direction in the face of adversity.

How to get into higher education

For full-time courses, you do all your research and apply for courses online through the UCAS website.

For flexible and part-time courses, you would apply directly to the universities and colleges.

Don't worry about whether you are qualified to study at university level yet – your original education or work experience may be enough, and if not, there are Access courses you can complete to gain entry. You also have the option of studying from home with organisations such as NEC (National Extension College)
  1. Get started on what to study, when to apply, and how to get a place. Open days give you the chance to ask questions and see what's available – find out when open days are taking place. If you can't visit in person, you might be able to attend a virtual open day
  2. Find a course by reading our advice on choosing a suitable course and provider.
  3. Then start applying – if you're applying to a university, submit your application before:
    • 15 October 2024 (18:00 UK time) for Oxford, Cambridge or most medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry courses (16 October 2023 for 2024 entry)
    • 29 January 2025 (18:00 UK time) for 2025 entry courses for all other undergraduate courses (31 January 2024 for 2024 entry courses) 
  4. Look into finance and support for advice on course fees, funding, and adjusting to returning to education.
  5. If you need student accommodation, there are different choices available – our guide will help you research your options and find what's right for you.

Amanda Scales

‘It is like seeing a whole other world’ – Amanda found university a transformative experience.

Elle Boag

'I’ve achieved more than I thought possible' – not content with 'staid acceptance' of her disability, Elle went on to study and subsequently lecture other undergraduates.

Speak to current students about their experiences

Speak to students like Lizz on Unibuddy

Ask me about my returning to study as a mature student, how I found the time to study around my family responsibilities, and anything else uni related you can think of!


Ged Bretherton

'I wanted to prove something to myself' – Ged's experience working for his union prompted him to get back into education.