Talented students who had ruled out higher education are rediscovering their potential and achieving their academic dreams thanks to a new initiative at Sheffield University.
Learners who had previously dismissed hopes of going to university now have more opportunities than ever before to transform their lives through education at the university’s Department for Lifelong Learning, via the institute’s new courses for mature students.
The university’s offer for mature students includes 17 new degree programmes with an integrated full-time foundation year, 12 new part-time degrees in arts, humanities and social sciences, 15 new part-time certificates, and the existing successful part-time foundation programme.
The majority of the courses have been developed by the department, which gives mature students who do not have the traditional backgrounds or qualifications the chance to study at university for a certificate or degree with the support and flexibility to fit their studies around commitments such as family life or work.
Ali Hayward, from Sheffield, says her creative writing course has changed her life. She is now studying for a Masters in English language.
The 50-year-old says: “I decided to come and study at university because I’d had my baby. She was born with cerebral palsy, and I’d had post-natal depression and I desperately need to do something for me.
“Doing the course has changed my life. I am a different person to who I was and I am glad I’ve done it – I wish I had done it years ago. I would like to encourage other people to come and do this, because it is so challenging and, yet, at the same time ,it is satisfying.
“You meet loads of new people and come away with a qualification which opens so many doors for you.”
Lifelong Learning has always been a fundamental and vital part of the university.
However, changes in Government funding and the national decline of part-time students by 40 per cent meant urgent changes were needed to ensure the future provision of learning for mature students without traditional university entry qualifications.
Each student also receives tailored support throughout their time at university.
Mark Boyd, aged 29, from Sheffield, says disappointing A-level results prevented him from going to university earlier.
He says: “I had considered being a student on a few previous occasions. Disappointing A-level results in the past had stopped me, but I felt it was time to overcome those disappointments.
“I’d be a liar if I said it was easier than I had thought to fit the study requirements in with my existing commitments, but I’ve just reminded myself about why I’m here and what I want to achieve from it.
“The course has made a difference to my life in so far as it’s given me a bit of fresh impetus as to my ambitions and how I want to realise those ambitions.
“What I would say to people considering going to university is don’t worry about the reasons why you shouldn’t go, just give it a go because it is potentially a life-changing experience.”
The Department for Lifelong Learning has already had 50 new students enrol and was recently shortlisted for a prestigious national Higher Education award. Margaret Hart, Lifelong Learning director, said: “Giving mature students access to an education at a world-class institution has been at the heart of the university since it was founded by penny donations from Sheffield residents in order to improve the lives of local people and the economy.
“Our new courses will ensure mature students from non-traditional backgrounds can access supported pathways into higher education regardless of their background, age or previous educational achievements.
“We are excited about the new flexible provision and richer learning experience this brings to the heart of our student body.”