Universities in England are seeing a worrying trend of mature student numbers falling after university tuition fees increased in 2012. Mature students are those starting courses at the age of 21 or over and their falling numbers in local universities indicate a “huge pool of untapped potential” among adults who have missed out on a university education.
Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access to Higher Education, stresses the need for targeted efforts to attract more mature students, especially with regards to offering adequate financial support. This has prompted Prime Minister, Theresa May, to launch a review which will examine fees and financial support for mature students. Also, there are also calls to recognise the unique needs of mature students who have family and career responsibilities that will benefit from more flexible ways of studying.
Professor Ebdon maintains that “there is a clear societal and economic benefit to people succeeding in higher education, whatever stage of their life they come to it”. London South Bank University’s vice-chancellor, Professor David Phoenix, is also in support of this view, citing the UK’s need to up-skill and re-skill those over 21, and maintain a robust workforce to tackle the daunting productivity challenge in the decade to come.
Reflecting upon this, I believe that life-long learning is needed in every economy. This drive to push targeted efforts to extend opportunities to mature students is also one that is echoed by the government in Singapore. Ultimately, up-skilling and re-skilling is no longer an option, given the fast-changing economy and global environment that we live in today.
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