It’s never too late to learn

Talented students who had previously ruled out higher education are rediscovering their potential thanks to a new Sheffield scheme

Learners who had previously dismissed hopes of going to university now have more opportunities than ever before to transform their lives through education at the University’s Department for Lifelong Learning, through one of the institute’s range of new courses for mature students.

The University’s offer for mature students includes the development of 17 new degree programmes with an integrated full time foundation year, 12 new part-time degrees in Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences, 15 new part-time certificates, and the existing successful part-time foundation programme.

The majority of the courses have been developed by the Department for Lifelong Learning, which gives mature students – who don’t have the traditional backgrounds or qualifications the chance to study at University for a certificate or degree with the support and flexibility to fit their studies around existing commitments such as family life or work.

Ali Hayward, 50, from Sheffield, said her Creative Writing course had changed her life.

“I decided to study at university because I desperately needed to do something for me,” she said.

“Doing the course has totally changed my life. I am a different person and I am really glad I’ve done it – I wish I had done it years ago.

“I would really like to encourage other people to come and do this because it is so challenging and yet at the same time it is satisfying. You meet loads of new people and you come away with a qualification which opens so many doors for you.”

Lifelong Learning has always been a fundamental and vital part of the University however changes in government funding and the national decline of part-time students by 40 per cent meant that urgent and fundamental changes were needed to ensure the future provision of learning for mature students without traditional university entry qualifications.

Opening access into departments across the University will give mature students and those who had previously ruled out higher education, especially those living locally, a flexible pathway to academic success.

Each student also receives tailored support throughout their time at University. 

Mark Boyd, 29, from Sheffield, said disappointing A Level results had prevented him from going to university earlier.

“I had considered being a student on a few previous occasions but disappointing A-level results in the past had stopped me. I felt it was time to overcome those disappointments,” said Mark.

“I’d be a liar if I said it was easier than I had thought to fit the study requirements in with my existing commitments but I remind myself about why it is that I’m here, and what it is that I want to achieve from it.”

He added: “The course has made a difference to my life in so far as it’s given me a bit of fresh impetus as to my ambitions and how I want to realise those ambitions.

“What I would say to other people considering going to university is don’t worry about all the reasons why you shouldn’t go, just give it a go because it is potentially a life changing experience.”         

The new courses for mature and part-time students will be officially launched at a special event on 23 April 2015. The Department for Lifelong Learning has already seen the enrolment of 50 new students and was recently shortlisted for a prestigious national Higher Education award.

Margaret Hart, Director of Lifelong Learning, said: “Giving mature students access to an education at a world-class institution has been at the heart of the University of Sheffield since it was founded by penny donations from Sheffield residents in order to improve the lives of local people and the economy.

“Our new courses will ensure that mature students from non-traditional backgrounds can access supported pathways into higher education regardless of their background, age or previous educational achievements.

“We are excited about the new flexible provision and richer learning experience that this brings to the heart of our student body.”

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