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Mature students in Higher Education: does age matter? Anne Jamieson BILL Seminar March 06.

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Presentation on theme: "Mature students in Higher Education: does age matter? Anne Jamieson BILL Seminar March 06."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mature students in Higher Education: does age matter? Anne Jamieson BILL Seminar March 06

2 Aim: To explore some of the ways in which age is (is not) related to aspects of Higher Education study in adulthood What difference does age make? (level and subject of study; socio-economic background; reasons for studying and reported benefits) For the older (51+ and 61+) students, what is the importance of studying for a qualification ? Are there any pedagogical implications? What further knowledge do we need?

3 Background and Context Education context. HE funding policies – outcome driven and evidence based Lack of evidence about motivations and benefits of HE for mature students Older adults relatively low priority – yet some do find their way to us – can policy makers be persuaded that they are worthwhile investing in?

4 Gerontology context Post-retirement strategies: can existing theories of ageing help us understand the significance of study in later life? Can research on older students help inform gerontological theory? Educational gerontology: main focus on informal and non-accredited formal learning – majority of learning.

5 Birkbeck (OU) study Aim: to understand more about the economic and social benefits of part-time study. Three-year study of a cohort of graduates: 1. Postal questionnaire survey (year 1) 2. Interviews with sub-sample (year 2) 3. Follow-up survey (year 3)

6 Birkbeck study population Questionnaires to 600 undergraduate finalists in September 03 and to 1,000 post-graduates and 1,100Certificate/Diploma graduates in January 04. So, all completed their progr. of study Response: 356 Undergraduates (UGs) (59% response rate) 589 Post-graduates (PGs) ( 59% response rate) 594 Certificate and Diploma graduates (CEs) (54% response rate) Overall response rate was 58% Total responses: 1,539

7 Questions asked about: 1.Background characteristics Employment and income Involvement in community Socio-economic status; parents education 2.Study reasons for study benefits of study

8 Open University study Similar size population (sample of graduates) Same questionnaire Same range of qualifications

9 Age and sex BirkbeckOU

10 Award level by age Birkbeck OU

11 Subjects studied by age Birkbeck

12 Birkbeck Qualification on entry

13 OU Qualification on entry 1= sub-A-level 2= A-level 3= Some HE

14 Reasons. Birkbeck Job satisf Progr. Pers. Dev.

15 Reasons: OU Job sat. progr Pers dev.

16 Reasons for study Birkbeck OU

17 Number of reasons ticked as important. Birkbeck

18 Work and further study benefits Birkbeck

19 Work and further study benefits Open University

20 Work and further study benefits BBK OU

21 Personal and social benefits: age and gender effects. Birkbeck

22 Personal and social benefits: age and gender effects. Open University

23 Personal and social benefits. Age and gender effects. BBK OU

24 The importance of the qualification How important is the qualification for the older students? If it is not important, why do they study for it?

25 Reason: Recognised qual. Birkbeck

26 Reason: Recognised qual. OU

27 Qualification as reason for study BBK OU

28 Benefit: Recog. Qual. Birkbeck

29 Benefit: Recog. Qual. OU

30 Qualification as an important outcome BBK OU

31 Qualification as outcome Status and self-esteem: Catching up with peers/family; validation Or Replacement of lost status (retirement)

32 Qualification as outcome I wanted to have something to do….I did not want to just flit about being retired as it were, I did not see myself as retiring, I see myself as going on to a new venture.. I want to be stretched intellectually and fairly…I dont have a degree and I suppose I have collected various other qualifications along the way..I think I felt that if I collect enough its going to sort of ….that was a bad decision I made at 18+...its validated my feeling that I could have done a degree…it is that sort of degree level…all my family have degrees.

33 Qualification as outcome I just want to have a degree – I want to prove that I can do it too...more than that: I am basically lazy...need a regime…it gives me a plan of work..somebody to tell me what to do….I do actually enjoy essay writing,, but I am not clear why they want us to do it… Education is the main centre of my life, I run my life in order to be able to take these courses..I will take the degree if I can....after that a PhD, just to be able to say I have got it. I want to know: can I get it? Have I got that sort of brain?…. I am extremely competitive, that is my attitude..I go into a sulk if I dont get a top mark in my essay.

34 Studying for a qualification (process) Life structure; milestones Clear challenge; sense of achievement Enhancing the learning

35 Qualification and process I am not interested in the qualification….but at the same time it is an objective…I need a tangible qualification as a marker…I like the feed-back I get from my coursework…I like a challenge when it is self-made

36 Qualification as process I dread the coursework deadlines….but I need them to give me structure…and to show mastery of the subject…It is a sort of masochistic has to hurt....intensive learning…brings out the adrenalin junkie in me…

37 Stress as challenge Up to a point, stress can have a positive function (inverted U function) Self-imposed stress (demand) as a coping strategy in later life

38 Demand-control-support model demand control support active healthy Overstressed Ill health

39 Conclusions 1.Overall some age based trends: older students give fewer work related reasons and benefits 2.Some differences among older students: –Those 50-60 (and some over 60): work reasons not inconsiderable –Qualification for progression matters to a considerable proportion of older respondents –Qualification as a benefit is highlighted by the majority, more so by those with undergraduate degrees than with post-grad. Qual. (though different pattern for OU) –Considerable differences between older women and men in terms of wider, personal and social benefits 3.Issue: are we talking about types of students or types of circumstances?

40 Life course perspective Our biographical and other longitudinal research suggests a great deal of movement of individuals over time between being non- student, doing an evening class for interest, studying for a certificate, studying at the OU, studying at Bbk, attending U3A events…. Also some students have several student roles (motivations) at any one time – e.g. OU and BBK

41 Main reasons for studying for qualification – other than instrumental work/progression related Wish to acquire a skill, e.g. language; IT (need for feed-back and checking) Deep and passionate interest in the subject – identity related (as distinct from leisure learning)

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