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The decision to re-engage with education at any age can be a significant step for anyone to take. The number of mature learners engaging in further education in Ireland is increasing yearly and public policy continues to encourage lifelong learning. There is a responsibility on institutions providing further education to engage with their students in a meaningful and constructive way. This study addressed an important but neglected area in Irish education research. The study is intended to improve understanding of the mature students’ experience and therefore gives a voice to their stories, their achievements and their struggles. It highlights the needs of this particular cohort of learners who represent a minority within a majority demographic population. Also highlighted is the importance of supporting and assisting mature students to participate fully in education and to achieve their goals within the context of lifelong learning. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of a group of mature people who had re-engaged with education after several years and were pursuing a further education course. The study was phenomenological in nature and the voice of the participants was central. A mixed method approach was utilised whereby a questionnaire and individual interviews were carried out with the identified research group. The findings of the study indicated significant personal growth and challenges within this cohort of learners. Challenges included: Finances, lack of IT skills, level of academic requirement and time management. Also highlighted in the findings were the different needs of the mature students compared to the more traditional younger student, the importance of awareness among tutors of their needs plus the importance of support services. Recommendations made in this study include: That prospective students be made aware of the level of academic requirement and the level of IT knowledge required for a course pre-enrolment; that policies and practices be put in place in order to support the older cohort of students; that students be made aware of available supports; promotion of awareness among tutors of the unique needs of the older cohort of learners.
Graham, Helen (2015) Re-engaging with Education as an Older Mature Student: Their Challenges, Their Achievements, Their Stories. Masters Dissertation, Dublin Institute of Technology.