Development & Alumni Relations Office 


25 August 2017

Every year, thousands of mature students go to university or college, many of them to Queen’s. Taking up the challenge of a university education is a great chance to develop new skills and enhance career options – no matter what your age.

Mature students, who make around 25% of all full-time undergraduate applicants, are those over the age of 21 who didn't go to university after school or college, often regarded as the traditional route into higher education.

Some may have taken gap years to volunteer and travel the world, while 40% of mature students are over 30 and have had work, mortgage or family responsibilities.

Kathy Ayers (pictured inset above) is originally from Tehachapi in California. She already has a PhD in Politics from Queen’s (1998), but at 51 and having being made redundant, she decided to change her career and study for a Master’s in Software Development. Since graduating for a second time from Queen’s she has taken up a job in computing. Speaking in The Guardian, Kathy says she wishes she had been braver and had applied sooner.

“I had been unhappy at work for years and was signed off with depression. Two months later I was told that my team was being restructured and my job was going. I could have taken another role but I wanted to try something completely different – like computer programming.

“My husband thought I was crazy. I was really nervous about studying software development as a mature student – it’s not a field known for diversity – and my daughter is turning 18, so the students were much closer in age to my children.

“The hardest part of the course was how much technology I had to get to grips with. When I finished my undergraduate degree in 1998 everything was paper-based. Now all the reading materials are online. The students shared reading using PDFs, apps, Facebook groups – and I had no clue how to keep up. I didn’t work out how to use the library printers until second term.

“I discovered that a lot of it comes down to confidence. I still had that terror that if I pressed the wrong key it would delete everything. But compared to the younger students I had so much more self-confidence. After two decades of working, I didn’t have a problem with things like leading group presentations.

“I wish I had been braver and done this sooner. I enjoyed University so much and I’m happier now. I was offered my first tech job before Christmas – so the plan for a new career worked. I hope I’ve shown my daughter what people can do. Life is short. You should always do something that challenges you.

“And my student friends didn’t actually mind hanging out with someone older than their mothers.”

While higher education can be demanding, particularly for those with different life, family and work commitments, mature students coming to Queen’s will find that their enthusiasm, skills and experience is highly valued.

Undertaking a degree at Queen’s as a mature student offers a range of excellent opportunities including:

  •  learning new skills
  • gaining improved job prospects
  • professional progression
  • new life experience

Mature students are always welcomed at Queen’s. They make a positive difference to the intellectual and cultural lives of those they come into contact with, bringing fresh insight, questioning minds, experience of life and work, and a passionate commitment to study.

In addition to informal networks, support is available to mature students from specialist staff in the Widening Participation Unit at Queen’s and from the University’s Student’s Union, where there is a dedicated Mature Students’ Officer (MSO). The MSO campaigns on issues of specific importance to mature students both within and outside the University and encourages participation in student life.

So don’t leave it too late! Check out what’s on offer at Queen’s or talk to someone in the Widening Participation Unit today!

‘This is what it's like to go to university as a mature student’ appeared in The Guardian on 24.08.17

General inquiries to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office; tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.


Photo credit (Kathy Ayers): Arwen Greenwood

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