Over-50s lose out on learning

May 1, 1998

HIGHER education is still failing to meet the needs of "older learners", adult education chiefs said this week, writes Tony Tysome.

While universities and colleges are increasing their intake of mature students overall, they are neglecting opportunities to recruit a growing number of people over the age of 50.

Delegates at a seminar organised by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education heard how the gap is widening between the proportion of over-50s in the population and their participation in higher education. By the year 2000, 40 per cent of the population will be over the age of 50, and a quarter will be over 65. Yet most mature students are between the ages of 21 and 40, with just 0.28 per cent over 50. Just 17 per cent of the Open University's students are in this age group.

NIACE assistant director Sheila Carlton said student support arrangements, which left the over-50s without the option of taking up student loans, were partly to blame.

But Jim Soulsby, who is coordinating NIACE's "older and bolder" initiative to promote the needs of older learners, said more institutions could be setting up partnerships between further and higher education to reach older learners.

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