Mature scholars suffer isolation

November 17, 2000

The majority of mature students suffer from social isolation, according to a survey.

Most of the 300 mature students questioned for the Manchester University survey were failing to get to know fellow students and tended to feel isolated because of the age gap.

Part of the problem was the limited amount of time mature students spent at university. This was compounded by the distance they lived from campus, which tended to be much greater - on average five miles - than for students living in traditional areas of student accommodation. The distance also had a significant impact on mature students' access to resources such as the library and on their flexibility to attend tutorials.

Julia Dearden, Manchester's widening participation project coordinator, said: "Mature students do have different needs, particularly if they find themselves within a large cohort of mainly 18-year-olds living together in halls of residence. They are likely to have a different mentality and, while they are often juggling the needs of families, they do tend to be more earnest about their studies and more focused."

The survey found that nearly a quarter of full-time mature students and nearly half of part-timers lived with dependent children. Others combined study with part-time or full-time work. Lack of time and the difficulty of combining study with other commitments was the problem mentioned most by respondents.

Many mentioned study skills as an area of concern, plus access to advice on non-academic issues such as finance and childcare.

There is also a need for induction events to be more geared towards mature students and a general raising of awareness of their needs at departmental level, the survey suggests.

Manchester is introducing new support services to address the concerns, including social events and support networks aimed at mature students.

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