Posted: by Verity Hilton in Higher Education

Application patterns of mature students - UCAS report

UCAS have today published their research on mature students.

The report Admission patterns for Mature applicants 2017 cycle compared data from students aged 21 and over with those aged 18 applying for their full time undergraduate degrees.

Key findings that came out

  • Living at home - mature students are more likely to live at home whilst attending full time study, this will likely increase with age. Half of 21 - 25 years olds live at home whilst studying, compared to nearly 80% of those aged 30 and over. 
  • Vocational subject choices - the most popular subjects were allied to medicine and nursing, education and social studies. There was a significant proportion of applicants being female which may explain why more than 70% of mature students aged 31+ are female. 
  • Entry rates by region - In the age bracket 21 to 50, HE entry rates are highest in Scotland, then London. But, with difference in age distribution across the UK country and regions, rates will vary region to region for different age groups of mature students. For example, London has the highest entry rates of students aged 36 - 50.
  • Applications are higher when the job market is weaker - there is a correlation between applications and job vacancies that are available. During 2009 and 2011, applications for full time undergraduate courses from mature students was at its highest. This would appear to be because opportunities in the job sector were at its lowest. However, from 2015 there has been a steady decline of applicants as job opportunities increased, suggesting that prospective mature students look to how the job market is faring and applying for higher education when prospects in the job market are looking low.
  • The UCAS' Chief Executive, Clare Marchant, had this to say: 'Mature students have different motivations, expectations and needs compared to their younger counterparts. Entering full-time higher education as an older student is a life-changing commitment, reflected in the focused choices many older students make to pursue highly vocational subjects. 

'UCAS' resources for mature students are specifically tailored to help those who may not have recent or formal qualifications to make good university applications, as well as offering essential advice on how to prepare for higher education, financial support, and what to expect as a mature university student. 

UCAS will be publishing insight about the most important factors influencing the application choices of mature students later this year, and this will inform how we further personalise information for older applicants.' 

Professor Julie Lydon, OBE, Vice Chancellor at the University of South Wales, and Chair of the Universities UK project, 'The economic case for flexible learning in higher education', also stated: 'Higher education has the power to transform lives. A university education opens doors to learning new skills, entering new careers, making lifelong connections, and making meaningful contributions to society. 

It is crucial that these opportunities are made available as widely as possibly to those who are qualified to take up these opportunities, and making meaningful contributions to society. 

As the economy and demand for skills change, we are likely to see more people looking to learn and retrain throughout their lives. Advances in digital tools, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are also going to change the way we work and learn. It is vital, therefore, that our universities respond to these changing needs.' 

Over the last three years, there has been a noticeable decline of applications from mature students. In 2017 there was a 9.8% decrease in applicants aged 26+ compared to 2016. This was partly due to a fall in applicants of nursing course in England, which fell by 23%. However, the number of students aged 26+ declined only 0.1%. This was first reported in UCAS' 2017 Undergraduate End of Cycle report.

The full report is available here.

Verity Hilton

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