Support for mature students while studying
Once you begin studying, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of all the support that’s available to you. You can access support at any point in your academic journey.
Go Higher West Yorkshire has information on what student support is available, but we’ve also provided some general information on other issues and situations. If you have any other concerns, always check with your university or college. Just because something is not described on a website doesn’t mean that help isn’t available – always ask for help.
Most universities and colleges will provide all students with a personal tutor, who is an academic member of staff responsible for your pastoral care. If you’re struggling with aspects of study, need flexibility on assessments or attendance due to personal circumstances, or are not enjoying the course, speak to a tutor. They might have good advice or a helpful solution, or be able to signpost you to student support and advice services within your institution.
Many course providers will have academic support and study skills provision, which might happen at course, school or institution level. It’s worth checking your university or college’s website – the library and IT departments often have guidance about academic study skills, including:
- how to find and use academic resources
- how to write for academic purposes, including referencing
- how to use common IT software and systems
There might also be subject specific support and guidance available.
Health and wellbeing support
For mental health support, visit your college or university’s website to find out what specific support is available. This might include counselling, student advice services, peer support such as Nightline, support networks, or access to other digital support resources.
They might also be able to help with a specific physical or mental health condition or difficulty – see ‘support for disabled students’ below.
Check your college or university website for their wellbeing pages – as well as health support, there might be activities to promote wellbeing and healthy living, including diet and exercise, social support, and relaxation techniques.
Student Minds has resources to support your mental health while studying.
Your own GP can also be a source of support. If you’ve moved away from home to study, your college or university will be able to signpost you to an NHS GP practice on campus or nearby.
You can apply for a 16-25 railcard if you are in full-time study, even if you’re over 25 years old.
WY Metro offers a 19-25 and students m-card which offers unlimited, discounted travel across West Yorkshire, including bus and rail.
Individual bus operators such as First Bus and Arriva offer discounted fares for students.
While many mature students choose not move away to study, it is an option that you might consider. Many course providers who offer accommodation either have accommodation that is specifically for older students, or will allow you to request to be placed with other mature students. If staying in student halls, Accommodation Wardens are live-in members of staff to support students with their accommodation needs.
Some providers don’t have their own accommodation, but you could rent privately, either in non-affiliated student halls or more standard rental accommodation. Unipol is a student housing charity which lists student housing appropriate for families in Bradford and Leeds.
Regardless of whether you move to study or not, your household might qualify for a council tax exemption or discount if you’re a full-time student.
Your college or university might be able to help you find part-time work, either through a jobs listing site or by providing advice on where to look. Your students union might also be helpful in finding employment.
Many universities and colleges will have money management courses/workshops and have advisers who will help you work out any problems.
If financial difficulties are affecting your ability to study, speak to student support services or the students’ union. Higher education providers may have some hardship funds available for students who find themselves in difficult financial situations. See Funding for mature students for more details.
Support for students with parenting and caring responsibilities
Universities and colleges recognise that many students balance study with parenting or caring responsibilities, and so there’s plenty of support available. If you have parenting or caring responsibilities, it’s a good idea to let your course provider know as soon as possible, so your college or university can connect you to the correct information and support easily.
- If applying to your course provider directly, you can speak to the admissions team about your responsibilities as a parent or carer
- If applying through UCAS, you can share information about your parenting and/or caring responsibilities in the ‘More about me’ section of your application
The information you share is confidential and won’t negatively affect your application, it will allow admissions teams to view your application in context. You can mention your parenting or caring responsibility in your personal statement, as it may demonstrate attributes such as organisation, time management, communication skills and more.
The level of support that colleges and universities provide for parents and carers differs. It’s important to research how well a provider can support your needs before applying.
- Attend an open day or arrange your own visit to campus to check facilities.
- Consider the cost and time of traveling and parking at campus, especially if you’re combining your commute to study with care visits, medical appointments, or drop-off/pick-up at school or childcare.
- Think about contact hours and course intensity for your course, and how you will balance studying with other commitments. If needed, consider which providers offer part-time study.
- Speak to student services or your course leader about how they manage absences. For example, can you catch up on lectures online if you’re not able to attend due to another person’s illness or medical appointments? Is there flexibility with deadlines?
Once you’ve begun your studies, keep in touch with student services and advocate for your needs. If you have trouble meeting academic commitments because of your additional responsibilities, it’s a good idea to talk to your personal tutor about what adjustments can be made.
A consistent challenge for students who are parents or carers is that universities and colleges very often don’t announce timetables until a few weeks before each term, making it difficult to arrange care options. Try to have a conversation with student services about what is best for you – for example if you have flexibility in afternoons but can’t make 9am lectures, it’s helpful for them to know so they can try to make adjustments.
Students with parenting responsibilities
If you have parenting responsibilities for a child or children under the age of 18, you might be eligible for the following funding;
- a Childcare Grant to cover 85% of your childcare costs for children under 15 (under 17 if they have special needs). This grant is means-tested and does not have to be repaid.
- Parents’ Learning Allowance is an additional, non-repayable payment on top of your other student finance funding
If you need childcare facilities near your place of study (on campus or elsewhere), it’s a good idea to register for a place well in advance, as places will be limited. If no longer required, you can cancel later on.
If you’re moving house for study, check if your university or college has family accommodation which you can apply for. Unipol is a student housing charity which lists private student housing which is appropriate for families in Bradford and Leeds.
Working Families has information about pregnancy and maternity for students
Gingerbread has information for single parent students
“Being a mature student and a parent does have its struggles. When I get home from university I still have all my motherly duties to do as well as my housework but surprisingly I have found a happy balance and some great ways to study while I work. Examples of these include listening to audio books whilst I iron, fitting in my emails whilst in the library and exchanging my night time reads to something more subject appropriate.”
Student stories: Clare is studying BSc Counselling and Mental Health at Leeds Beckett University
Students with caring responsibilities
If you are responsible for providing unpaid care to a family member, partner or friend, you might be eligible for an Adult Dependant’s Grant.
Go Higher West Yorkshire has collated information and resources for young carers, including contact details for all our higher education partners. Much of the information provided is relevant for carers regardless of age.
Ry is a carer and studies BA Youth Work and Community Development at Leeds Beckett University.
Support for disabled students
If you’re a student with a long-term illness, disability or a mental health issue, you can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). You won’t need to repay DSA and you can get it on top of any other student finance you receive.
You may also be able to access other support from your higher education provider. Contact them directly to find out what’s available.
UCAS has information for disabled students about applying to university, advice on how to speak to your course provider’s disability service, and frequently asked questions by disabled students.
Disability Rights UK has a factsheet on how the Equality Act 2010 supports and protects disabled students, and has also published a comprehensive guide to applying to higher education, and getting support while studying.
Diversity and Ability has a list of free resources to support disabled and neurodiverse students.
I encourage you to look past the word ‘disability’. You may not feel that you come under that label – often people with invisible conditions feel that they cannot legitimately say that their situation is disabling … Don’t let unfamiliar language put you off – you deserve the funding that has been put aside for you. And if it isn’t spent, the government take it back, and that suggests to the government that it wasn’t needed, reducing funding for future students too.
Student stories: Zoe , who has mental health conditions and is studying MA Inequalities and Social Science at the University of Leeds
Student stories: Josh, who has high-functioning autism and
Student stories: Charys, who has dyslexia and is studying level 6 Graphic Design at Leeds Arts University
Support for veterans and service leavers
Higher education is an option for many serving personnel, service leavers and veterans, as well as their families.
The MOD’s Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme (ELC) promotes lifelong learning amongst members of the Armed Forces. The scheme provides financial support for three years for higher level learning of a nationally recognised qualification at Level three or above.
UCAS has information about how to apply to college or university with qualifications gained while serving in the Armed Forces, or as a member of a military family. This information is also applicable if applying to your course provider directly.
The MOD’s Service Leaver’s Guide and Career Transition Partnership (CTP) gives information about educational support, and the schemes available to help you access higher education.
QUEST has information and advice about higher education for serving personnel and veterans.
Student stories: Barney studied BSc Osteopathy at the College of Osteopaths while serving in the Royal Air Force
Support for students with criminal convictions
Higher education is an option considered by many people with previous criminal convictions. A criminal record in itself won’t stop you from getting accepted to study, although admission will usually depend on the higher education provider you are applying to and the type of course you are applying for.
Some courses might require DBS checks, for instance Social Work, Education, or Sports Therapy. Other courses lead onto careers where you may be restricted. For example, you might be able to study Law but once graduated you may be unable to register with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.
If you apply through UCAS, you will only be asked to disclose your criminal record if this is relevant for your course – typically ones that involve working with vulnerable children or adults.
Many higher education providers do not ask for disclosure during your application, but some might request this information. If they do ask, they must tell you why they’re asking, who is going to see the information, and how it is going to be used.
If you are within your licence period, you may have conditions which could prevent you studying, for instance related to geographical areas, or restrictions around internet use. The higher education provider might ask about conditions of your license.
The Prison Education Trust has information about continuing education once you leave prison.
Unlock has guidance on applying to university with a criminal conviction.
“The nature of my conviction is very stigmatising and the prospect of having to reveal it was daunting. For the most part, the people I dealt with were respectful and did all they could do to support my application and I’m really grateful to them for that. The Masters is a great opportunity for me to move on with my life and I can’t wait to really get stuck into my studies.”
Student stories: Henry*, accepted to study a Masters with an unspent conviction
“I was delighted to hear that my appeal had been successful and I loved every aspect of studying. I worked hard and ended up with a 2:1. Part of my degree involved a placement with a local council and when I’d finished my degree I was offered a full time job. I’ve been there for just over 8 years now and have never once regretted the choice I made.”
Student stories: Maddie*, successfully appealed a university rejection due to criminal record
Nearly all universities and colleges have a student union; these are independent bodies run by student representatives to represent students’ interests. They offer many benefits:
- an independent advice and advocacy service
- representation for students’ voice and concerns, either for a particular course or across the student body
- student clubs, societies and groups, e.g. Netball Society, Photography Club or Afro-Caribbean Society
- enrichment activities and events, e.g. social events, give-it-a-go sessions, wellbeing activities
- support and training for Student Reps
- a jobs listing service, for roles within the student union or with external companies
- volunteering opportunities such as helping to run a society, writing for a student newspaper, getting involved in campaigns or leading the union itself
Returning to study can be an opportunity to meet new people and make connections. This might be through an interest or hobby – in which case, your student union might already have an existing society, or you could always set one up yourself.
Many student unions have course-specific societies, and also student societies for mature students or students who commute (i.e. those who don’t live in student accommodation).
If you have concerns or issues that your personal tutor or other staff can’t help you with, you can speak to your student union. They can offer a lot of help and guidance, and represent you if you wish to make an official complaint, or are facing disciplinary action from your college or university. In general, a students’ union is a separate legal entity from your university or college.
All Go Higher West Yorkshire members’ student unions are affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS represents over 7 million students nationally, and represents students’ interests, develops research to influence national policy, and campaigns on a variety of different issues relevant to students.
Enterprise, employability and career support
Your course will have specific information about how to progress from education into your chosen career, and how to apply your learning after you graduate. There might be employability modules or work-based learning such as internships, placements and live briefs, to equip you with knowledge and experiences relevant to the workplace.
Your college or university might also have careers advisors or a careers service to help you understand the job market, find a job, write CVs and applications, and practise for interviews. They might offer one-to-one advice sessions, careers fairs, CV writing workshops and mock interviews. They might also advertise exclusive student and graduate roles with external businesses.
Many colleges and universities also offer entrepreneurial support to students and graduates, whether you have a business idea, want to develop a new product or are looking to grow your existing enterprise. This might include funding such as grants or loans, advice from enterprise officers, support for intellectual property development or access to business facilities.