Adult Learning: Your Options

There are many benefits to adult learning from keeping your mind active to opening up opportunities for part time work in your later years. Retirement is the perfect time to start, whether you are looking for some informal learning, improving upon a skill or setting out on a full degree course. You should never feel as though you are too old to make a start. Age discrimination in education is unlawful and you are entitled to learn for as long as you wish. There are currently over 600,000 over 60 adult learners in England alone. There are a number of resources available to help you to find a course that’s right for you.

1. Evening Classes

Evening classes remain a very popular option. In retirement, with more free time, you have the option to explore part time, day, weekend online and distance learning classes too! Many of these classes take part in learning environments such as schools, colleges and libraries in the local community. Popular classes include languages, computer skills, cookery and arts and crafts.

2. Higher Education

Most universities and colleges welcome mature students with all levels of experience and skills. When it comes to entry requirements, many have flexible admissions policies which take into account work and life experiences. As these entry requirements vary so much, it would be a good idea to get in touch with admissions tutors for the courses that you are interested in. It could be worth attending an open day or having a phone call to discuss your situation and application options. Many of these courses require an access course which leads on to the full degree (see below).

To aid the transition between your current life and studying, universities and colleges have specific orientation programmes and support systems for mature students. For help and advice, view the UCAS guide for mature students  which is an extensive guide for all you need to know.

3. Access Courses

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares people with the skills and knowledge required for study at university. These courses generally suit those who do not have any previous traditional qualifications.

Access to HE courses are delivered by colleges in England and Wales, and are available in a range of different subjects, such as languages, social studies and art and design. There are over 1,500 access courses listed at the Access to HE website.

Finding a Course

There are many ways you can find a course that’s right for you. Here are some ideas of resources that are out there:

  • The Hotcourses website allows you to browse a wide range of courses, from short courses to postgraduate courses. It also has a great section with reviews from previous students.
  • Floodlight offers an official guide to courses in London. This covers a wide range of courses for all levels.
  • Local libraries have details of courses and lots of computer facilities for online courses for you to use.
  • If you’re looking for a home study option, the Open University has no upper age limit and very few formal entry requirements, making it accessible for all. Visit the Open University website for more information.
  • If you’re looking for something a bit more creative, the Open College of Arts may be for you. They offer home study courses in fine art, photography, creative writing, textiles, art history, music etc. Courses can be taken individually or combined to make a degree qualification.
  • If you’d like to learn more about computers and get tech savvy, Age UK coordinates a network of computer training centres providing easy to understand training suited to people in their later years.

Funding and Grants for over 60s

Many older people dismiss further education as they view it to be too expensive. They are many benefits and concessions available to older people. Make sure you ask whichever institution your are looking at or content the course management team.

If you are looking at studying for degree level, DirectGov's student finance site provides information on the financial help available to students in higher education in England.

Whichever route you decide to go down, you will gain huge satisfaction from furthering your education and improving your skills. 


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