>A new network has been created to aid mature students with their UWE experience…
University is a massive step for anyone. Even before Freshers’ week begins, students are faced with an array of issues. Accommodation, finance and living away from home are amongst those faced by most. However, for some they include balancing a mortgage with study, leaving children and wives behind and returning to education. These students are of course, mature students.
I am amongst the estimated 6000 mature students who have chosen to return to education and study at UWE. Whilst I, at 24, am not the most mature of students, I have had to contend with issues that the majority of my peers haven’t. I’ve had to leave behind my son, adapt to being in an environment full of teenagers and learn to accept that, although I only left school seven years ago, education has changed drastically.
At first I, like other mature students, didn’t have anyone at UWE to turn to. This has now changed with the creation of the Mature Students Network. In February a committee was elected and the efforts of hard working individuals came together to bring the network to life. Amongst those elected was Paul Frost, the network’s president.
Frost’s return to education came as a result of redundancy: “I decided that I wanted to pursue an old ambition of entering law, so enrolled on an access course at City of Bristol College.” Although Frost was unable to take law at college, he was still adamant that it was the path he wished to take and after a lot of hard work he began his Bachelor in September. It was at this point that his efforts turned to forming a network for mature students, he remembers:  “During Freshers’ I found myself sitting alone whilst all these teenagers were running past.”
Frost realised that the concerns of mature students were very different to those who had come straight from home. One of these issues was being a student parent, and with children of his own, he could sympathise. “On the committee we have a student parent rep. I myself travel home every weekend to see my children but come Wednesday, being apart from them is very hard”. Committee members hope to see some progress by UWE as: “One of the problems facing those with children is the fact the university doesn’t provide family accommodation.”
Another issue recognised by Frost, and the committee, is finance. Whilst for most running out of money means missing out on ‘Pound a Pint’, for many mature students it can be a real problem. “Money for mature students is a serious issue, whilst most students can phone their parents for money when they are short, mature students can’t. When it’s a case of paying for student accommodation as well as maintenance you can find yourself really struggling”.
Another challenge for mature students is integrating with teenagers, something which can be daunting. This is one which Frost has relished and feels very positively about. “At first I was worried but I’ve found myself getting on with all the people on my course and indeed those outside my course. At times I find myself being like a mentor to some of the younger ones. UWE is a very accepting university and apart from the obvious differences there’s been no issues integrating”.
Although the network is new this hasn’t deterred Frost’s vision for it: “We’re a very new network and are facing issues that come with all new things. But we have plans for the future. Our immediate plans are getting the network out there and we are going to use Freshers’ 2012 to do this. We want to hold events all through the week available to all. In the long term I want to come back in ten years and see the network still going and being much stronger.”
All that’s left now for the network is to get out there and promote itself. More information can be found on Facebook, ‘UWE Student’s Union Mature Student 2011/12’, and their UWESU page. Membership to the network has been set at £5 for next year. The network is fantastic news for mature students, as well as UWE, and shows mature students are not alone.
Rikki Du Heaume