John Walshe (Education Editor of The Irish Independent) writes in today's paper about an increase in the number of over 23's seeking places in third-level. He reports that a record 14,606 mature applicants have sought places through the CAO out of a total of 77,126 applications to date. Walshe also reports that this increase in places comes at a time when the colleges are under severe financial pressures and have to reduce their staff numbers by 6pc over a two-year period. (In a side comment he expects this reduction in staff to be complete by the end of December). The article cites Dundalk IT as a popular place for mature students.
In the National College of Ireland we had great success in attracting mature learners returning to full-time education this past year - we had a significant increase in the numbers on computing courses. While many students have done well in their first year, some others have had a tough time re-adjusting to full-time education. Starting studies all over again sounds easy, but it's not. However, with our excellent learning support staff - the vast majority will pull though to go into their second year.
Mature students add a lot to a class. In semester II of the academic year just finished, I had a first year class that had a mix of students in the late teens and early twenties - to one guy who is older than me. The mature students are very good at attending classes, and paying attention. I find it a pleasure to have them in my class. I often think that it would be good for school leavers to work for a few years before going to College - I feel that they would get more out of it compared to going straight into College from school.