Impact Features set out to learn more about the experiences of mature students at the University of Nottingham (UoN): do they feel as included as everyone else? Do they tire of the constant chatter of Ocean?

Although some mature students do prefer to live in halls, others have opted to live outside of the more immediate university setting. One mature student, James*, had been living in Nottingham prior to enrolling at university, and shares a house with a friend in one of Nottingham’s suburbs. “It definitely made it harder to feel like I was a part of the ‘fresher experience’,” he said, “and means I have not made as many friends as I would have liked.”

Another mature student, Rhys*, is living in Cripps Hall, which he finds “overpriced”. “I think I would have been much more comfortable in self-catered accommodation,” he says, but also that “the general student experience would not have much changed”. Indeed, mature students living with younger freshers appear to engage in more social activities – while Rhys goes to “the occasional nightclub”, one of the reasons why James has not engaged socially as much is “because no-one has actually invited me”, though he is hoping to get into more societies (and more social opportunities) soon.

“We can’t blame all social differences between mature and younger students on their age”

But how do younger students feel about living with mature students? A friend of mine is living with a mature student in self-catered accommodation, and told me that the mature student often gets on the other students’ nerves, chasing them up to clean up and do chores. But of course, when it comes to matters like this, this is a matter of personality rather than age. Indeed, we can’t blame all social differences between mature and younger students on their age: Rhys said that “the limiting factor on my activities is money more than opportunity”.

Most mature students I have spoken to say they do not talk to many, if any, other mature students, though James reckons they share some sort of “unspoken bond”. I asked if UoN can do anything to encourage interaction between mature students, though the people I’ve spoken to seem to think the uni does this enough anyway. Socialisation is therefore a matter, to some extent, of attitude – Rhys told me that “at the end of the day I’m here for my degree and any friends I make along the way are a bonus”, rather than the main goal.

As for the academic side, the main reason people decide to come to university later in life – if not surprisingly – is because a degree offers better job opportunities. I also found that mature students enjoy the atmosphere of universities – especially as they feel that they “do belong” in an academic environment where people are “here to learn” – though they can find it “daunting” to get back into serious studying. While mature students don’t tend to think that a degree is necessary for a good job, it gives a “massive advantage going forward” as it opens up more doors, and means that people’s “starting pay will be a little higher”.

“I’m pretty sure that Jane Betts’ experience, a 59-year-old fresher living in Nightingale Hall last year, was pretty different from mature students in their 20s and 30s”

Like any student, the experience of mature students is dependent on where they live and their personality. Undoubtedly some younger students living off-campus will face the same kind of problems in terms of socialisation mature students off-campus will face, and the stress of deadlines and boring lectures is something that we all share. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that Jane Betts’ experience, a 59-year-old fresher living in Nightingale Hall last year, was pretty different from mature students in their 20s and 30s.

But really, mature students largely share the same ideas as younger students. University is a place to study and have fun – and who doesn’t like the idea of three years away from ‘the real world’? We all oversleep, we all skip lectures, we all complain about the food – there’s really nothing alien about mature students. Spend time with them – you might learn something. I know I have.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

Matteo Everett

Featured Image: UBC Learning Commons via Flickr

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