Age-old problem

May 7, 1999

The ageism that leads UK employers to shun mature students ("Unwanted oldies", THES, April 9) is deplorable.

It is bad for, and reflects badly on, employers. It deprives them of the chance to plumb wells of experience, knowledge and wisdom, while yielding them no significant compensating gains. Dependence on traditional, limited recruitment practices also betrays a world-view that is ossified and downright mean-spirited in its reluctance to give people a chance.

Ageism has a severe impact on the well-being of mature students. One group suffering badly is older women, many of whom have good academic track records from the early 1970s but whose career choices and development were severely limited. These women often later retrained, at great cost, as mature re-entrants to graduate and postgraduate education. For them, ageism has a particularly pernicious effect. It hindered access to opportunities when they began to open up for women in the 1980s, blocks their use of new skills now in the professional posts for which their education might reasonably have been supposed to help prepare them and is also restricting their ability to get even menial work to clear debts incurred.

Such people face a descent into not-so-genteel poverty. Ageism causes profound harm and damages the country economically.

John Pelican London SE5

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