Student profiles are ageing at virtually all United Kingdom universities, according to the latest statistics.
More than 40 per cent (642,076) of the student population (1,567,313) in 1994-95 were aged 25 and over, according the Higher Education Statistics Agency. A quarter were aged 21 to 24.
Ten years earlier, according to statistics from the National Union of Students, less than a quarter of students were aged over 21.
Additional HESA figures show that, while more than a third of the full-time, first-year undergraduates were aged 21 or over in 1994, this rose dramatically to 94 per cent of the part-time first-year population.
The agency has also found that course choice differs between young students and the growing numbers of mature entrants.
For instance, those aged over 25 are drawn to social, economic and political studies (12.4 per cent in 1994-95) while those under 21 prefered business and administrative studies (13.3 per cent).
The age-subject difference was even more marked for part-time students with 23.3 per cent of under 21s doing engineering and technology compared to 4 per cent of the over 25s. It also emerged that more than a third of over 25s were doing courses classified as combined compared to 13.6 per cent of those under 21.
Research by Pat Davies, at City University, showed that women over 40 made best use of access programmes to gain entry to degree courses in 1992 with 35 per cent, of the total female intake in this age group, having done access courses. Just 18 per cent of the male entrants over 40 used this route.
The numbers of mature postgraduate students, aged 25 and over, had increased from 37 per cent of postgraduates in 1983-84 to 43 per cent in 1993-94, according to NUS figures.