Where Next? A Study of Work and Life Experiences of Mature Students (incl. Disadvantaged) in Three Higher Education Institutions
Document Type Article
Combat Poverty Agency Working Paper 10/02 ISBN: 978-0-9565660-0-3 April 2010.
This study explores how graduates who entered college as mature students, and ‘disadvantaged’ mature students, view and value Higher Education after graduating with a primary degree. The study highlighted the limited usefulness of the concept of disadvantaged mature student and the findings of the research were not significantly different whether one was a mature student or a disadvantaged mature student. The rationale given by the state for supporting mature students in Higher Education (HE) is that it will yield economic and social benefits for both the students and society. As a consequence a wide range of access policies has been developed to support the entry of ‘non-traditional’ students. However, to date there is very little research on what happens to such students while in HE and after graduation. This research gathered quantitative and qualitative data from the graduates of NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Technology. The economic, social and personal benefits of participation in Higher Education were examined as were barriers to further career and career progression. Although most students valued their educational experience very highly the monetary benefits were more modest than expected. But the educational qualifications enabled many graduates to move away from routine work often with low levels of autonomy, status and pay. Overall, the research shows that for working-class mature students, students with disabilities and ethnic minorities HE is a highly valued transitional space that affords a greater level of career choice and opportunities to renegotiate aspects of personal identities.