Mature and part-time students

Current students

Student in library

Once you've joined us at Essex, you'll find there is a wide range of support available so that you enjoy your studies and overall experience as a current mature and/or part-time student.

Life at Essex exposes you to new ideas, opportunities and people. As a mature student you’ll be in very good company – around 37% of our students are mature students.

Supporting you

We understand that your life and professional experience may vary considerably from fellow students, as may your individual needs. There are many facets to being a student: being a particular age is just one of them. We aim to provide you with the right range of support and guidance to ensure that you enjoy your studies and your overall experience.

We appreciate that studying as a mature student can present challenges. This is particularly true if this is your first experience of higher education and you have other commitments and responsibilities to meet such as work and family. We want you to be aware of the support available so that you can make the most of your time at Essex.

In this video, hear about Deana's experience of being a mature student.

What our students say

  • Triona Kelly


    What our students say

    Triona Kelly

    Triona Kelly

    My advice

    “The advice I would give to a fellow mature student is to realise how much experience you do actually bring with you, and how useful that is and…what kind of an edge it does give you when you get here.”

    Interview with Triona

    What were you doing before you came to university? Why make the change to study at university?

    Before I came to university I worked as an accountant for 15 years and one day I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying it anymore and that there was probably another 25 years of work to go, so I wanted to come back and change direction, effectively.

    What has been most challenging and how have you addressed this?

    What has been most challenging for me has been the change of the structure of my life, so from being in a management position and being consulted on decisions and making decisions and having a real daily work structure to having none of that and feeling quite, sort of, unimportant when I got here. And then in terms of how I addressed it, one of the big things that I did was I volunteered for SU Advice and that meant that I could use some of the old skills that I had and it made me feel kind of useful again.

    What unexpected benefits have there been to being a student?

    The unexpected benefit for me was having time to explore outside of my course and to get involved in things, and so I’ve been involved in the Mature Students' Network . I’ve been involved in SU Advice. I’ve been involved in helping my friends prepare CVs and I have gotten a summer job in events stuff on campus and all of those things are giving me a whole range of experiences and opportunities and ideas about where I might like to go in the future.

    I didn’t expect that to happen. I thought that most of that would come from the course I am doing, but it turns out that most of it comes from all of the other things that I’m doing and it’s really kind of, you know, giving me ideas of where I will develop and where I might go to and I really didn’t expect that to be what I would find.

    What other advice would you give a fellow mature student?

    The advice I would give to a fellow mature student is to realise how much experience you do actually bring with you, and how useful that is and…what kind of an edge it does give you when you get here. The other thing I would say is that there are bad days. There are definitely bad days but they pass. And the last thing is that it takes time, it just does take a bit of time. I don’t think I gave it enough time at the start. It took a couple of terms and I think I expected it to take a lot less time.

    Do you feel part of the University? Was there a defining moment? What made you feel part of it?

    At the start of my time here I found the social side of things was where I had the difficulty in meeting people and making friends…and finding people to meet to make friends, so through getting involved in the mature students’ society and volunteering at the Advice Centre and started to meet people and become part of the structure here.

    The defining moment was at the end of the second term where I had two offers: from the mature students’ society a night out with my friends and at the same time I had another offer which was a social night out with the Advice Centre crowd, and that was a real kind of feeling back to my old life where there was lots going on. That was the defining moment.

    What has been beneficial about your experience of living in University accommodation as a mature student?

    There have been a couple of benefits to living in University accommodation. First was the ease of finding the accommodation because I was coming from Ireland and I would not have known where to start looking for accommodation here, so that was a real advantage to just be able to know that I was going to be on campus.

    The second thing is that because there are not so many mature students on campus my place became a kind of a hub so people could call round for coffee or if we were going out we could start in my house; it was just an easy social point for people. And then the last big advantage for me was after years of commuting was being two-minutes walk away to a lecture room. That was just fantastic.

    How have you found being involved in the mature students society useful?

    Yes, I have definitely found being involved in the society useful. Initially it was the real source of people with common ground, people having the same experience. Even though everybody’s from a different background that was the only place where I felt there was a real sense that people understood what I was going through. And that’s where I found most of my friends and that’s why i got involved with it, because I thought it was really valuable and I think that there are bits that I could bring to it. So, I really, really found that to be the most useful thing that I could have done was to have joined that society.

  • Mike Foote


    What our students say

    Mike Foote

    Mike Foote

    My advice

    "The core reason that any of us is here is to learn at a high level and to achieve things that we never dreamt that we would do in life and in a very creative environment."

    Interview with Mike

    What were you doing before you came to university? Why make the change to study at university?

    I left school at 15½ and in those days it was a different planet altogether. It really was. And over the years certain experiences, for example, in the 60s I bummed around Europe and in my travels I met many university-educated people. In youth hostels at night over bread and wine, like you do, I found myself engaging in topics at any level with them and after that experience I began to question.

    You are brought up believing that people who own houses and went to university lived on a different planet. After retirement I took up part-time work through agencies and in the course of this I met quite by chance a lady from the Middle East. One evening she invited me for a meal and in the course of the conversation I expressed great regret. She herself had BA, MA and so forth. And expressing my regret, she looked at me and said, "Well Michael, you must go. Phone the University this week." "Yes, alright", I said. So I did. I spoke to someone here. This was in late 2007, by the way. To everyone I spoke said "when did you last have any full-time education?" and I responded something like "150 years ago" and I was invited to take up my case with the institute, the college. So two years college access course, and, miracle of miracles, I’ve arrived!

    What fears did you have and how did you overcome them?

    Examinations! At my last permanent school, which was an old Victorian pile, I had this thing about sitting down in a classroom and told that one must answer these questions etcetera, etcetera and my mind used to go blank. I mean if I left my name on the question paper I figured I was doing quite well. So this formed in my mind, this early twentieth century creation called a school master says to you "You’re useless boy", it sticks. You think, "Yeah, I must be."

    So the one fear I had, as I looked forward with great enthusiasm to coming here, I knew that it would involve examinations. So I think the way I overcame them was by listening to other students, especially second year students in my art department or in the film department, because I am doing a joint honours degree. And I listened to what they said and one of things they always said was "There will be revision lectures. The academic staff would give you the opportunity". So I grabbed them, as it were.

    And I did my best to revise, to revise, to revise. I was conscious of the fact that I had been thinking in so many different ways over the years, but now to apply them in a formal academic sense, even though I had done two years in college, this is another situation altogether. This is more. It is of course naturally enough by its very nature at a higher level. So I revised and revised and revised.

    When I walked into that examination room for the first time: numbers on the desks, row after row after row. And to listen to the senior invigilator advise these assembled students about the various offences if they were so engaged... If you want to go to the loo, you are marched there and back and so forth. I thought "my God, this is terrifying". But then I suddenly realised, it wasn’t. Something had clicked and...Curiously, I answered the questions. I answered all the questions that I needed to answer. And that’s how I overcome the fear of examinations. Of course, for the record, I’m still waiting for the results.

    What has been most challenging and how have you addressed this?

    I think the most challenging for me has been engaging with information technology. I’ve had a computer at home for a few years – a laptop. There were certain ways we did things at college which I was beginning to become accustomed to, but there were other things that are practised here that I found a bit tricky and I will illustrate that by one thing, and one thing only, and that is submitting essay coursework online. That was the most difficult thing. And I think the way I addressed it was by making a very big nuisance of myself with the IT helpdesk. Thus far, I’ve survived.

    How have you made friends?

    I made some friends at college and some of those have come here with me, so to speak, so there was the basis of friendship already. Also, I had a very good start when we had the Housewarming weekend at the University, which was a marvellous inspirational thing, as far as I am concerned, because it gave mature students the possibility, the opportunity, of having a taste of campus life. And it was these experiences, bringing them forward, and becoming involved in one or two activities around the campus, that I’ve made a number of friends here. So, we were lucky. I was lucky.

    I consider myself very fortunate, as I say, having a head-start, bringing friends from college onto the campus, onto the University, and making more while I was here by simply engaging with the campus community. And that has been great fun and continues to be great fun.

    How have you found being involved in the mature students' society useful?

    Being a member of a society creates a natural social group. There is a tendency among mature students to engage at a mature level. And it brings one, as an individual, more and more into the campus community. And I believe that I’ve reached a point now where I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. The informality of that response, I should qualify.

    The core reason that any of us is here is to learn at a high level and to achieve things that we never dreamt that we would do in life and in a very creative environment like university campus. And being involved with the mature students’ society has been a great help in carrying this forward. I’m conscious on a daily basis of getting encouragement from people just by being here and engaging with them. And I in turn have been encouraging them. It’s a two-way process.

  • Steve Bertie


    What our students say

    Steve Bertie

    Steve Bertie

    My advice

    "The advice that I would give to a fellow mature student would be first of all to trust yourself while you are here, because you can get yourself through the studies. It may be a new way of learning for you but back yourself and trust yourself. You can do it."

    Interview with Steve

    What were you doing before you came to university? Why make the change to study at university?

    Before I came to university I was a contract bricklayer and I’d been a tradesman for over 20 years and it was great. I really enjoyed it. I got the best out of my trade but back in December 2007, I had a heart-attack and that led to having a triple bi-pass and so I just couldn’t do my job professionally anymore. So I had to really sit back and think about what I wanted to do and so I just went off and did a few courses and three-and-a-half years later that led me to being in university.

    What has been the most rewarding thing about being a student academically and socially?

    The most rewarding thing about being a student academically is realising that you can study here, you can…that you are actually cut out for this kind of learning, which does come as a bit of a shock at first but that is the real beneficial thing - is getting your assignment back or your second assignment back and you’ve got a good grade.

    It is vital to have a social life here at University so that you are able to break up your studies. There are a lot of people around who are going through the same things as you are without you realising, and so the social aspect of being here allows you to talk about your studies, talk about your former life and, yeah, it is really, really beneficial.

    What unexpected benefits have there been to being a student?

    The unexpected benefits of being a student have been getting involved with the society for mature students. This has really, really helped me to change focus at times when I’ve needed to when I’ve been studying, to make me realise that I just needed to go to the events and the socials they were putting on. It took a bit of effort to do that, but that’s been…that was unexpected that the society could be so helpful.

    What advice would you give a fellow mature student?

    The advice that I would give to a fellow mature student would be first of all to trust yourself while you are here, because you can get yourself through the studies. It may be a new way of learning for you but back yourself and trust yourself. You can do it. Just look back on the last year or few years that you’ve been studying about the ways that you’ve had to change there. It may mean that you have to change again here but it’s well worth it, and if you can do that, you’ll get through your studies.

    The other piece of advice I would say is to try and embrace the social life while you are here and societies can help you to do that because that is a real valuable part of this student experience – is to mix up the academic side and the social side of things. That will get you through university.

    How have you found being involved in the mature students’ society useful?

    Being involved with the mature students’ [society] was extremely useful because their socials and their events were really low-key, but to be honest that suited us mature students. It didn’t have to impact too much on our studies or any other issues that we had, but it gave us, like, a release and that was the real, real beneficial thing. And the friends that I made through the society right at the very start of this, of my first academic year, I’m still good friends with now and I think we will always be good friends because we were able to bounce ideas off each other academically and we are able to revert to type and be just a couple of guys in the pub when we want to be as well. So, that’s what the society has done for me. It’s been great.

    How have you made friends?

    Making friends here at the university came quite easy because luckily enough I went to the University Housewarming event before the year started here… and I made friends on the activities that were set for us. On the whole event, which was really, really well designed and really well thought out, …and on that event I made friends with at least two or three people…and we’ve been studying together all year, revising together, all those sorts of things and so making friends really wasn’t as hard as I’d expected it to be.

  • Jennifer Tranham


    What our students say

    Jennifer Tranham

    Jennifer Tranham

    Third year BA English and United States Literature

    Settling in

    I was 22 when I first started at Essex. I found settling into university life surprisingly easy – much easier than I was expecting. I think that I definitely handled the pressures of university much better as a mature student than I would have done when I was younger, as it meant more to me. Essex is such a friendly place, so I never found it hard to make friends and get involved; nobody cares where you’re from or how old you are. That’s one of the best things about Essex.

    Challenges

    The biggest challenge for me has been fitting university around being a parent. There have been times when my daughter was ill and I wasn’t able to go to classes, and I’ve been up all night with her and then had to write an essay on half an hour’s sleep. I guess everyone gets used to their own challenges.

    Resources

    The Mature Students' Network is a fantastic resource for mature students. It gives you the chance to meet other people who understand your unique set of circumstances, as well as helping to point you in the direction of academic support. There’s also a Postgraduate and Mature Students' Common Room, which is brilliant, as it gives you a space on campus to relax, do some work, and meet other mature students.

    Advice to others

    The one piece of advice I’d give to a mature student? Get involved! One of the best things about Essex is how friendly and inclusive it is, with plenty to see, do, and get involved in. Mature students are just another facet on its wonderful diversity, so you will never feel alone or out of place. Enjoy yourself, and welcome to Essex!

In this video Steve describes why he is glad he chose to return to higher education as a mature student, and the support he received from both the University and the Mature Students' Network.

Did you know?

Did you know that in 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students?